The wife and mother of a Staten Island man who choked to death beneath several NYPD officers found no comfort Wednesday night in the contrite words of the man who applied the apparent fatal hold.
Like others across Manhattan and at the Staten Island storefront where a police officer choked Eric Garner July 17, the pair reacted with incredulity after a grand jury declined to prosecute NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who subdued the husband, son and father of six.
Through the night, hundreds of protesters conducted sit-ins in Grand Central Terminal and at Times Square, shut down outbound tubes of the Lincoln Tunnel and forced the closure of the West Side Highway, where some motorists honked in support despite the late-night gridlock. Impromptu protesters snaked their way to Lincoln Center, while another angry group packed into Columbus Circle and marched in Harlem and Morningside Heights.
About 1,000 people marched across the Brooklyn Bridge early Thursday morning, meeting little resistance from police.
Earlier in the evening, when asked if they would accept Pantaleo's written offer of contrition, both Esaw Garner, the dead man's wife, and his mother, Gwen Carr, recoiled.
"An apology now means absolutely nothing," Esaw Garner told the Rev. Al Sharpton Wednesday night on his MSNBC television program.
Pantaleo, 29, offered condolences in a statement.
"I'm left without my husband," Esaw Garner said as Carr sat with her. "Now I have to be alone to raise my children and grandchildren . . . He can go home to his family."
The decision to not prosecute the officer in a confrontation made public in a cellphone video "tore me up," Carr said. "What were they looking at?"
The anger and frustration of a wife without a husband and a mother without a son was mirrored by others across Manhattan and Staten Island into the night.
From passersby on Bay Street, where police subdued the 43-year-old man on July 17, to the West Side Highway and Brooklyn Bridge, protesters marched, shouted and held signs. Some hoisted posters with slogans of the protest movement -- "No Justice, No Peace," while others preferred a message echoing Eric Garner's final words: "I Can't Breathe."
In midtown, scores of visitors poured into Rockefeller Center for a concert and the annual lighting of the iconic Christmas tree. Hundreds of protesters gathered not far from the concert.
About two dozen protesters chanting "hands up, don't shoot!" marched in the middle of 53rd Street, crossing Madison, Fifth and Sixth avenues. Police erected barricades, preventing protesters from getting too close to Rockefeller Center.
At a news conference, an emotional Mayor Bill de Blasio urged protesters to keep the peace. He said he had spoken with Ben Garner, Eric Garner's father, who was in "unspeakable pain" after hearing the grand jury decision.
"I have to help people to understand what we have to do to move forward and absorb the pain people have on their faces," de Blasio said. "We have to find a way forward today."
On Staten Island, a small group gathered in front of the Bay Street sidewalk where Garner died. Later, a group of about 15 people marched to the NYPD's 120th Precinct, where one man climbed the stairs and started chanting, "Who are we here for?" The crowd responded, "Eric Garner!"
"I'm disappointed with the decision," said Linder Hampton, 59, of Tottenville. "There was an innocent life snuffed out over a misdemeanor."