More than 200 demonstrators were arrested as protests against the Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict an NYPD officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner stretched into a second night, police said.
Thousands of people flooded streets across the city Thursday, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge carrying makeshift coffins, blocking traffic at other major bridges and tunnels, lying down in roadways in silent "die-ins" and weaving through busy thoroughfares chanting "I can't breathe," and "No justice, no peace." More protests are expected Friday and a national march is planned for next week.
Among the 223 protest-related arrests Thursday was American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, who was charged with disorderly conduct. Eight other people were taken into custody in Times Square, where some protesters threw objects at police. Order was quickly restored after the skirmish.
Thursday's arrests are in addition to 83 arrested Wednesday, bringing the total to 306.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Friday morning that a few police cars had been spray-painted and there was very little vandalism and no violence. He said the bulk of the arrests were on charges of disorderly conduct and a few were for minor assaults on police officers.
Bratton said he wasn't concerned about the increase in the number of arrests and that protests have been peaceful. He also praised officers for practicing restraint during the marches.
"All and all, apart from the significant traffic disruptions, we've been doing OK," Bratton said.
Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was captured on amateur video, saying "I can't breathe!" during an altercation with police.
Protesters came out in larger numbers Thursday, with public officials and families of other men who were killed in police confrontations joining picket lines. The families of Anthony Baez, the man who died after being put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer in 1994 when he and his brothers accidentally hit a cop's cruiser with a football, and Amadou Diallo, who was shot 19 times by four officers in the Bronx in 1999, were seen with protesters outside 1 Police Plaza in lower Manhattan.
A view of the initial gathering from Chopper 4 showed a crowd of an estimated 5,000 at Foley Square before a few hundred other protesters from Union Square marched down to join them there.
The protesters chanted, "This is our reality, stop police brutality," as police walked and rode alongside them, monitoring the march and keeping order.
They also invoked the Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury's decision last week not to indict a police officer in the shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, shouting "Hands up, don't shoot," and holding signs that said "Ferguson is everywhere."
Other protesters crossed the Brooklyn Bridge carrying fake caskets bearing the names of unarmed black men who died at the hands of police, including Garner, Ramarley Graham and Akai Gurley.
Thousands more marched up from the West Side Highway, weaving through traffic.
Later, protesters went to Herald Square to lay down on the streets of the busy intersection, remaining silent for 11 minutes, signifying the number of times Garner yelled "I can't breathe."
The Brooklyn Bridge, the West Side Highway and the Holland Tunnel all saw brief closures or major backups during the protests as marchers demanded action.
"These officers need to be convicted. They belong in jail," said midtown resident Richard Newbury.
Ashley Cissokho of Park Slope, Brooklyn, said, "It's not just anger toward police. It's anger toward the system that lets them get away with doing bad things."
Danny Blackman was stuck in traffic for about an hour and a half. He called it "no big deal" and said "I understand the protests. I'm OK with that."
Not every driver was as understanding. In Tribeca, cars were bumper to bumper, a nightmare for taxi and limo drivers.
"A lot of stress today," said a private car driver. "Clients are stressed out. They had to walk half a mile to the restaurant."
Meanwhile, thousands of other protesters marched, chanted and lay down in streets in major cities across the country. Demonstrators stopped traffic on major highways in Chicago and on a bridge in Washington, and in Boston, throngs of people protested peacefully at the city’s annual tree lighting ceremony and at City Hall.
The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation into the case. The NYPD says its internal review of Pantaleo's actions is ongoing.