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NYPD reports 20 arrests in Friday night protests against lack of indictment in Eric Garner case

Protesters rallying against a grand jury's decision not

Protesters rallying against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner march through Macy's Herald Square, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in New York. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Scores of protesters swarmed Macy's and the Apple Store in Manhattan to stage "die-ins" on Friday, the third day of demonstrations against a Staten Island grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer in the apparent chokehold death of Eric Garner.

There were 20 arrests between 9 p.m. and midnight, NYPD officials said Saturday morning.

About 200 protesters with their rain-soaked signs and chants for justice surged past holiday shoppers and gawkers at Macy's Herald Square, plopping on the floor.

"This is the largest store in America, and it's the perfect place to drive home the message: Black lives matter," said financial analyst Harris Agbor, 25, of Harlem, punching his fist in the air as he lay on the floor. "Everyone is energized. It's electric."

On the third straight night of demonstrations, demands for change in the meting out of justice competed with the sounds of holiday tunes, bright lights, shopping and weekend revelry Friday night. The thousands of marchers were a shadow of the estimated 10,000 that clogged city streets Thursday night.

Similar protests played out in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other cities across the nation, with groups also holding events in various parts of New York City.

The public outcry started Wednesday after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the apparent chokehold death of Garner on July 17.

Despite the rain, one group of several hundred marchers stopped in Union Square and Times Square, then marched past the high-end Fifth Avenue shops before streaming into the Apple Store.

Employees there looked stunned but accepted protesters who stretched out by the Genius Bar, where troubleshooters fix computers and where, for a few minutes, the nonshoppers demanded fixes in the way justice is meted out.

"Incredible," said Mario Valdez, 31, of Astoria, Queens, shopping with his wife when demonstrators appeared.

He said he was not bothered by the disruption: "People need to talk about the justice."

But not everyone embraced the marches.

Taxi driver Naveed Azam, on a ride from Union Square to Columbus Circle on Friday evening, said the protests have hurt cabbies' business: "The last three nights, I lost $500 to $600. Last night, I'm in Brooklyn and I can't get back to Manhattan. They shut the bridges down."

Protesters "have to accept the decision and obey the law," he said. "The city must give them a place to go and protest" without disrupting traffic.

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said Friday that he expects those protests to "peter out" soon.

Still, officers were again out in force, walking in the roadways alongside protesters and reminding them to stay on the sidewalks.

At one point, police on motorcycles nearly hit some of the protesters as they walked into the street, causing screaming matches and shoving.

In another tense moment, demonstrators tried to break the ring of officers around Rockefeller Center, where the Christmas tree was lit Wednesday. They gave up and moved on.

Late Friday night, as many as 1,000 protesters marched to Grand Central and staged another die-in on the floor of the busy transportation hub. Scores of commuters gawked and snapped cellphone pictures of demonstrators.

"If these officers think we're not going to be here due to inclement weather, they need to buy a new pair of boots because we're not going anywhere," said Jessi Nakamura, 34, of Queens.

At Times Square, the loud blare of holiday songs drowned out chants of "I can't breathe."

It did not appear that there had been large numbers of arrests during the night.

 

City 'should be proud'Bratton on Friday lauded how peaceful most of the demonstrations have been.

"I think the city should be feeling quite proud of itself at this juncture," he told reporters. "It has a police force that's showing remarkable restraint, and it also has demonstrators who are showing -- most of them -- great restraint."

He said police have been making selective arrests, so "an individual officer can testify that 'I saw an individual doing this,' " Bratton said.

Mass arrests during the 2004 Republican National Convention cost the city $19 million in settlements, including $7.5 million in lawyers' fees and "phenomenal time" spent on giving depositions, Bratton said of a scenario he didn't want again.

Preliminary numbers released by an NYPD official showed 219 people were arrested overnight Thursday in the second round of protests, with three people charged with felony reckless endangerment or assault on a police officer.

 

With Emily Ngo, Ellen Yan, Candice Ferrette and AP

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