Thousands of Garner Protesters March Across NYC

Thousands of people lay down in streets, blocked bridges and cut off tunnels across New York City in a second day of protests after a Staten Island grand jury voted not to indict an NYPD officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

Protesters starting out in Foley Square chanted "I can't breathe" and "No justice, no peace" as they marched Thursday evening, holding up signs reading "Solidarity against police brutality" and "Equal justice for all." 

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was captured on amateur video, saying "I can't breathe!" during an altercation with police. 

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 black teenager Michael Brown, shouting "Hands up, don't shoot" and holding signs that said "Ferguson is everywhere." 

"These officers need to be convicted. They belong in jail," said Richard Newbury of midtown Manhattan. 

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." 

Some of the protesters headed to the Brooklyn Bridge, carrying fake caskets bearing the names of unarmed black men who died at the hands of police, including Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham and Akai Gurley. 

Thousands of others marched up from the West Side Highway, weaving through traffic.

Later, they 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.

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." 

A law enforcement official said late Thursday night that there were roughly three dozen arrests in Manhattan, but the number is subject to change with the ongoing protests. They included eight arrests in Times Square when some people began throwing objects at police. Order was quickly restored after the skirmish. 

Thousands more protesters marched, chanted and lay down in streets in other major U.S. cities, too. Demonstrators stopped traffic on major highways in Chicago and a bridge in Washington, and in Boston, thousands of people protested peacefully at the city’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony and at City Hall.

In Wednesday's protests in New York City, demonstrators staged a "die-in" at Grand Central Terminal as they chanted "I can't breathe" and lay down on the ground. Others marched through traffic across Manhattan, bumping up against police barriers set up for the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremonies. Bridges and highways were also gridlocked for some time. 

Eighty-three people were arrested in Wednesday's demonstrations, which were largely peaceful. 

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said earlier in the week that the NYPD was anticipating protests and that the department had been preparing for them for months

The medical examiner had ruled Garner's death a homicide, saying it was caused in part by the chokehold. Garner's health issues, including obesity, were listed as contributing factors in the autopsy report. Garner's family said that finding and the video should have secured an indictment.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was seen on the video wrapping his hand around Garner's neck July 17 as the heavyset, asthmatic man gasped for air, released a statement shortly after the grand jury decision was announced Wednesday saying he never intended to harm anyone.

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.

The Rev. Al Sharpton announced Wednesday he and the Garners, along with the families of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old killed in Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer a grand jury also declined to indict, and Akai Gurley, the man killed by an NYPD officer in a dark Brooklyn housing project stairwell last month, will lead a national march in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 13.

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