Demonstrators around the country staged die-ins, blocked roadways and marched into stores to protest a New York grand jury’s decision to not indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man.
Tensions were already running high around the nation because of a grand jury’s decision last week to not indict a white officer in the shooting death of black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. On Wednesday, more protests erupted after a grand jury in New York City decided not to indict a white officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, a black man who gasped “I can’t breathe” while he was being arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
Hundreds of protesters marched and many briefly laid down in Macy’s flagship store, Grand Central Terminal and an Apple store. They streamed along Fifth Avenue sidewalks and other parts of Manhattan, with signs and chants of “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe.”
News outlets reported that demonstrators later blocked traffic on the FDR Drive in Lower Manhattan, spurring arrests. Police didn’t immediately have information on the number arrests.
In Oakland, California, hundreds of protesters briefly blocked Interstate 880, a major freeway, on Friday night. There were no immediate reports of any arrests or injuries.
In suburban New York City on Friday, about 65 demonstrators lay down on a street corner in protest. Among them were Jason Walker of Atlanta, in New York for a wedding, and his 3-year-old daughter, Jaidyn. She told her father she wanted to lie down when the demonstrators did, and she lay on the sidewalk for the full 7 minutes, occasionally covering her eyes.
In New Haven, Connecticut, home of Yale University, hundreds of demonstrators marched Friday afternoon from the law school to the courthouse. In New Jersey, dozens of students from Rutgers University walked through New Brunswick, slowing downtown rush-hour traffic to a crawl and forcing the city to postpone a tree lighting ceremony scheduled at Monument Square.
In Colorado, students walked out of class Friday to protest the decisions not to prosecute police in New York and Ferguson. In Aurora, a suburb of Denver, eighth-grader Bennie Mahonda walked about 5 miles to the municipal center, shouting “Hands up, don’t shoot!” to honks from passing cars. She had her parents’ permission but promised her mother she would return to class after the demonstration, which she called “social studies outside of class.”
“It makes us kids feel unsafe, that we’re outsiders, enemies of society,” Bennie, who is black, said of the decisions by the grand juries in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.
In Florida, activists marched through the streets of midtown Miami and blocked a major causeway connecting Miami to Miami Beach. In Providence, Rhode Island, several hundred people blocked downtown streets, while city police had to stop some protesters from walking onto Interstate 95 on Friday night. No arrests were reported.
The protests have been mostly peaceful.