37° Good Evening
37° Good Evening
NewsNew York

Protesters pack Manhattan streets on another night of demonstrations over Eric Garner decision

Protesters march over the Brooklyn Bridge on Thursday,

Protesters march over the Brooklyn Bridge on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, after Wednesday's decision by a grand jury not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner when police tried to arrest him on July 17, 2014, in Staten Island. Credit: Craig Ruttle

Protesters in the thousands shut down several Manhattan streets Thursday night, bringing parts of the city to a halt on a second night of demonstrations after a grand jury declined to seek an indictment in the apparent police chokehold death of Eric Garner.

From the heart of the city's governmental core in Foley Square to long strips of the usually bustling West Side Highway, marchers supplanted cars, trucks and city buses as NYPD officers trailed close behind. Some officers were on foot in groups. Others slowly trailed the crowds on motorcycles and in police vehicles. The officers kept their distance, with orange movable barricades at the ready.

Similar protests played out Thursday night in Boston, where demonstrators competed for attention with the lighting of the city's Christmas tree. In Chicago, protesters shouted "we are one, we are one" as they stopped downtown traffic and attempted to get on a main highway through the city. Just before 10 p.m., several hundred protesters jostled with a large group of police officers on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive.

The demonstrations in Manhattan and Brooklyn came at the end of a fitful day for the city, marked by Mayor Bill de Blasio's praise for the NYPD amid protests Wednesday night, police union attacks on the mayor for his initial emotional comments after the grand jury decision, and the release of details related to the decision.

Demonstrations also were held in Washington, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Denver and Minneapolis.

Marchers in Manhattan protesting the decision were for the most part orderly, but just before 11 p.m., police detained several demonstrators in Times Square. Several marchers in lower Manhattan repeated Wednesday night's chant echoing Garner's final words before he died July 17 underneath a crush of several police officers, captured by a cellphone camera.

"I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe," shouted many as the crowd jammed into Foley Square in lower Manhattan. The loud but mostly orderly demonstrations were much larger and more widespread than Wednesday night's.

Several people were seen being detained by police, but the NYPD said they would not release arrest numbers until Friday morning.

By 12:30 a.m. Friday, the protesters had largely dispersed in Times Square and elsewhere, though police kept vigil.

De Blasio struck a wary tone Wednesday night as he talked about the decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner's death. The mayor, the father of two who is married to Chirlane McCray, an African-American, spoke in a halting voice at the news conference about conversations both he and his wife have had with their teenage son, Dante, about avoiding confrontations with police officers.

Leaders of the main NYPD officers union Thursday zeroed in on the mayor's comments the night before. Union president Patrick Lynch said de Blasio "threw New York City officers under the bus" with his remarks on Staten Island.

"While the mayor was behind a microphone, New York City police were out there, protecting people's right to protest in the middle of the night while keeping residents of the city safe," said Lynch, of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which represents the NYPD's rank-and-file officers. "What we need is City Hall to remind citizens we should be afraid of criminals, not police."

De Blasio stood by his earlier comments and said it's hard to deny what is seen on the cellphone video.

"I think people in this city saw a man die who shouldn't have died . . . I think it's important to speak to that reality, particularly when it's not an isolated reality. And if there are critics who don't like that, I would suggest to them that they look more honestly at the reality we're facing and think about the changes we need to make."

De Blasio said change at the NYPD is already starting. He met with Police Commissioner William Bratton to discuss several developments related to the ongoing investigation into the conduct of officers at the Staten Island storefront where Garner died.

The mayor said the Garner case would result in the retraining of officers in how to conduct themselves during street encounters with citizens. Bratton said the NYPD is conducting an internal investigation into the officers' conduct.

They will face questioning by the department's internal affairs unit in the company of their lawyers, Bratton said. NYPD officials could not talk with them while they were being investigated by the Staten Island district attorney's office.

Bratton and de Blasio highlighted the details of a $35 million, three-day retraining program for about 20,000 police officers, supervisory officers and other NYPD staff at the Police Academy. The police will learn techniques such as how to more safely restrain those who resist arrest.

On Staten Island, a judge released bare-bones details Thursday of the grand jury proceedings. The panel sat for nine weeks, heard from 50 witnesses, viewed 60 exhibits, watched four videos and examined medical records and NYPD policies, said State Supreme Court Justice Stephen Rooney.

He said Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan had not asked for the release of transcripts of grand jury testimony or exhibits.

The Rev. Al Sharpton and about 20 civil rights leaders met privately Thursday in Harlem and said afterward that there will be a march on Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13 to demand federal action in police brutality cases. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said she would join the marchers.

"I think there is a place for peaceful demonstration, a march on Washington is a very good place to do that," she said.

After a night of noisy protests across Manhattan, several hundred demonstrators in Brooklyn gathered on Atlantic Avenue about 9:30 p.m. and lay down in the street in silence, the only sound the buzzing of police and news helicopters overhead.

On the Brooklyn Bridge, police blocked access to vehicle lanes but allowed protesters on the walkways, where some held mock black coffins with names on them -- people who were supposedly killed at the hands of police.

With Maria Alvarez,

Alison Fox, Dan Rivoli,

Ellen Yan and AP

More news