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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.
"Anger is not even a word, outrage is my word. Those words don't begin to define the decomposition of your soul when you hear something like this," said one protester at New York's Foley Square, who identified himself as Graham D., 33. "Before, no one believed this was happening, but now we have clear distinct evidence that police abuse is happening and still nothing happens."
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.
"I'm college educated and I still have to be seen like I'm a threat due to my skin color," said protester Isaiah Jones, 22, who demonstrated with a large group at Brooklyn's Fulton Mall. "We have to slow down everything in Brooklyn and Manhattan. If they keep killing us, the system doesn't deserve to keep going. It's the best we can do right now."
The protests occurred in several spots in New York City, with crowds at times blocking traffic on the West Side Highway, lying down in an intersection outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and converging outside the terminal to the Staten Island Ferry in southern Manhattan.
Police arrested at least 28 people during protests in New York as of Thursday night, law enforcement sources said.
Protesters also marched in Washington, D.C., for a second straight day. A group of about 100 people staged a "die-in" near the White House as a tree lighting ceremony went off about a block away, NBC Washington reported. Several hundred protesters marched in Boston ahead of a tree lighting ceremony on the Boston Common and police were prepared for larger demonstrations, NBC station WHDH reported.
In Chicago, hundreds marched during rush hour Thursday. Crowds later walked onto the Dan Ryan Expressway, briefly closing it, until police escorted them off the road. Protesters staged a "die-in" on Roosevelt and shut down traffic for 10 minutes. There were also protests in Dallas, Atlanta and Portland, Oregon.
Wednesday night, hundreds of protesters in New York shut down a section of the West Side Highway and another group staged a "die-in" at the main concourse of Grand Central Terminal and rallied in Times Square. Police said they made 83 arrests at various protest sites around the city.
Some protesting in New York Thursday said they had no doubt that Wilson would not be indicted for shooting Brown in Missouri. But with the video showing Garner's arrest in such detail, they were certain of a different outcome here.
"Ferguson, I wasn't surprised at all, I think we saw that coming, but with this one I was horrified," said another protester in Foley Square, Margaret Rodgers, 72. "It's unbelievable and a total miscarriage of justice."
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday that the Justice Department will launch a civil rights investigation into Garner's death.