NEW YORK CITY (TIP): Barely a week after angry protests in New York in the wake of a grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the case of death of Michael Brown in Fergusan, thousands of angry protesters flooded lower Manhattan and wreaked havoc at the heart of the evening rush – taking over the Brooklyn Bridge and the West Side Highway following a grand jury decision, December 3, not to indict a white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the case of chokehold death of a black Eric Garner on July 7. Traffic came to a complete standstill as an estimated 7,000 demonstrators fanned out to major crossings and thoroughfares, keeping commuters gridlocked downtown. “Go home, a-holes!” a yellow cabbie yelled from his car window.
Mayor de Blasio addresses a press conference on December 3 and announces plans to retrain the entire New York Police force, numbering over 30,000
“This city won’t move until we have justice,” fired-up protester Felix Castro said. Cops preemptively gave up the bridge without a fight and allowed protesters the run of the city on the second night of marches following a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict an NYPD cop in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. The NYPD scrambled choppers to watch over the demonstrators in Foley Square, right outside 1 Police Plaza, and cops spread out in groups of eight to patrol the mob.
At one point, police built a human wall as one man screamed at them, “You’re all a bunch of animals!” Another crowd of about 1,500 formed in Harlem and marched along East 125th Street. Demonstrators began filing into lower Manhattan around 4:30 p.m. – posting fliers with a list of their demands, arranging coffins with the names of people killed by cops, waving posters with phrases like “Black lives matter” and “We can’t breathe.” The brown caskets were lined up in the center of the square with Staten Island’s box embellished with various names including Garner’s and the day he died – July 7, 2014.
“The caskets are a symbol,” said Adilka Pimentel, who helped make them in Bushwick with the help of other Make the Road New York volunteers. “They’re covered in names of people who have lost their lives to police abuse and police brutality.” A similar scene broke out in Union Square, where hundreds of protesters chanted “hands up, don’t shoot.” Between 75 to 100 cops were on hand to monitor the situation, but were not taking any action against the protesters.
The Union Square rabble rousers met their cohorts in Foley Square and proceeded to the Brooklyn Bridge, where they held signs that said “de Blasio, the blood is on your hands” while yelling “Whose streets? Our streets!” One of the protest’s organizers, This Stops Today, posted a list of demands for “Justice for Eric Garner” throughout Foley Square that included officers taking responsibility for Garner’s death, ending the “broken windows” policing and a federal investigation into the case.
#ThisStopsToday tweeted that 85 cities across the US hosted protests Thursday including Pittsburg, Penn., Orlando, Fla., St. Louis, Miss. Back in New York, the mothers of Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham, Mohamed Bah and Anthony Baez – all who had their children killed by cops in the past 20 years – joined the Foley Square demonstration Thursday, December 4. “We must not forget about Ramarley. We must rise up,” Constance Malcolm yelled into a loudspeaker. More than 80 people were arrested Wednesday, December 3 night, with six facing various criminal charges including disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in Manhattan Criminal Court.
Meanwhile, protesters shut down major highways in New York and Chicago, and demonstrations were held in other cities Thursday as outrage against a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer in the death of an unarmed black man continued to be felt on city streets across the nation. Thousands of protesters, chanting “hands up, don’t shoot,” and “shut the whole system down,” marched across the Brooklyn Bridge, shut down parts of the West Side Highway, and blocked traffic in demonstrations all over Manhattan.
In Chicago, protesters walked onto the Dan Ryan Expressway and brought traffic to a halt. And in Washington, D.C, a crowd staged a “die-in” a block from the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony near the White House. A grand jury on Wednesday declined to indict white NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the July 17 death of Eric Garner, who died after being wrestled to the ground with Pantaleo’s arm around his neck, while telling officers, “I can’t breathe.” A bystander captured the incident on video.
Many felt the grand jury’s decision reaffirmed a belief that police are too often not held accountable for excessive force, especially when it comes to the deaths of unarmed black men. And the grand jury’s decision in the Garner case came a week after a Missouri grand jury declined to indict a white Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, for fatally shooting Michael Brown, who was unarmed, on Aug. 9. Mayor de Blasio and the Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, at a press conference on December 3, have spoken of plans to retrain the police personnel and to provide body cameras that the NYPD will begin using