The Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) is organizing a march that will shut down the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge later this month, and the city does not appear to have a plan to deal with the protest.
Sharpton, a longtime New York firebrand who hosts an MSNBC show, says he chose August 23 as the date of a march across the bridge, which provides Staten Island’s most important access to the rest of the city, because that is the anniversary of the death of Yusef Hawkins, a 16-year-old African-American boy who was shot by a group of white youths in Brooklyn in 1989.
The march will protest the death of Eric Garner, who died after he was detained by New York Police Department officers on a Staten Island sidewalk.
Although no details of the march have been released to the public, other than the date and location, the march would disrupt traffic throughout the city. Unlike the Brooklyn Bridge, the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, which connects Staten Island and Brooklyn, has no pedestrian walkway. The bridge, or at least one level, would have to be closed to allow NAN and its supporters to safely cross.
Staten Islanders rely on the Verrazano, which is the only way to enter or exit the borough by car without leaving New York State. Local residents have been calling their representatives to find out if or how much of the Verrazano will be closed, but they’re not getting much information. Government officials who have called the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the NYPD report that they have met with the same response: “No comment.”
National Review Online reached out to Judie Glave, a spokeswoman for the MTA, who responded tersely, “We have no comment,” to any questions about NAN’s planned march.
A spokeswoman for NAN has previously stated that Sharpton will be having a private meeting at an undisclosed location on Wednesday morning to discuss logistics of the march. A local Staten Island publication said of the possible bridge closures, “At this point, anyone who wants or needs to cross the span [of the Verrazano Bridge] that day is going to have to wait until at least Wednesday to find out more information about how the march will impact their travels.”
So far Mayor Bill de Blasio has not stepped in to control the situation, which is “definitely” happening, according to a NAN spokesperson. The mayor’s press office did not return repeated requests for comment, but the controversy points up the growing influence of Sharpton, whose rabble-rousing has brought diminishing returns in recent decades but who may be getting a new lease on fame in de Blasio’s New York.