Protesters Swarm West Side Highway, Try To Disrupt Tree Lighting After Garner Decision

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Protesters gathered around the city late Wednesday afternoon into the evening, following a decision by a grand jury not to indict an NYPD officer involved in the apparent chokehold death of Eric Garner.

Much as they did last week following a grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri, protesters flooded the West Side Highway, shutting down traffic near 51st Street. Drivers found themselves flanked on all sides by protesters.

Police penned the protesters with nets and gates at 48th Street. Several people were arrested at the scene, and one was injured.

A total about 30 people were arrested at different locations in Manhattan on citations for obstruction of vehicular traffic, police told 1010 WINS.

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, died in July after police officers attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes in the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island.

A Staten Island grand jury on Wednesday declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who put Garner in the apparent chokehold.

Earlier, some protesters said they planned to disrupt the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center between 7 and 9 p.m., CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.

As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, protesters had arrived at Rockefeller Plaza from Times Square by 6:15 p.m. Some were on the sidewalk chanting and holding signs, as others crowded the area for the annual holiday event.

But the NYPD would not let the protesters get anywhere near the Christmas tree.

PHOTOS: NYC Reacts To No Indictment In Garner Case

The protesters remained on the streets some distance away chanted, “hands up, don’t shoot,” as well as, “I can’t breathe” — which Garner was heard saying on video after he was taken down by the apparent chokehold.

Others, referencing the tree-lighting ceremony, said, “No justice, no tree,” Carrasco reported.

“The lives of black young men, black children, they matter,” protester Florence Johnson said at Times Square.

New Yorker Rashaad Ernesto Green said he hoped the country would make drastic changes after what happened to Garner on Staten Island and Brown in Missouri.

“It’s clear in recent weeks that no matter what happens, people aren’t being held accountable,” he said.

The protesters also marched up Broadway nearby and disrupted traffic, CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported. Protesters were later seen walking between cars and taxis in Columbus Circle before proceeding farther northward on Central Park West and Broadway.

Protesters also blocked traffic on Tenth Avenue in the 50s as they headed west, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported. Some protesters told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman they were part of a larger group marching up from Times Square, but that police split them up into smaller groups.

And around 9:45 p.m., protesters were also seen marching east on 57th Street, and stopping right in front of the CBS Broadcast Center. Police blocked the road ahead of the protesters.

Protesters Swarm Outside Tree Lighting After Eric Garner Decision

52 Protesters Swarm West Side Highway, Try To Disrupt Tree Lighting After Garner Decision
Alex Silverman reports

Finally, at least 1,000 people returned to Times Square and virtually shut it down. Late Wednesday night, they were marching south on Broadway.

Protests were expected to keep going throughout the night.

Earlier at Grand Central, a “die-in” was organized via social media under the hashtag #ThisStopsToday, CBS2 reported. As they laid on the ground of the terminal, the protesters chanted “I can’t breathe,” which Garner was heard saying after he was taken down in the apparent chokehold.

"Die-in" staged at Grand Central following grand jury decision in Eric Garner apparent chokehold case (Credit: Marla Diamond/1010 WINS)

“Die-in” staged at Grand Central following grand jury decision in Eric Garner apparent chokehold case (Credit: Marla Diamond/1010 WINS)

A large police presence was seen at the railway terminal in advance of the protest, Aiello reported. No arrests were reported.

Sources told Aiello that police at Grand Central would be “hands off” any protesters unless they impeded trains or got rowdy.

Many commuters stopped to look at the protest as they passed through the terminal.

Protesters Stage 'Die In' At Grand Central Station

nypd die in Protesters Swarm West Side Highway, Try To Disrupt Tree Lighting After Garner Decision
Marla Diamond reports

“It seems a little troubling with the circumstances,” one man said.

“They’re trying to express a message, and obviously with the attention they’re drawing here, they’re getting the message across,” another man said.

“The relations between the cops and the public is very, very serious here,” a third man said.

Protesters also took to the streets in the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island, where the Garner incident happened, as 1010 WINS’ Holli Haerr reported.

Protesters Stage Die-In At Grand Central Terminal Over Eric Garner Decision

459893618 Protesters Swarm West Side Highway, Try To Disrupt Tree Lighting After Garner Decision
Peter Haskell reports

Some people at the Staten Island protest said they felt Pantaleo got away with murder.

“They killed him twice today. That’s the second time they killed him. Eric Garner – I was sitting there when he died,” one man said.

“I’m not surprised. I’m just in shock,” a woman said. “I was hoping that I wouldn’t be in shock. I was hoping that it would come out in our favor.”

Another woman erupted with emotion as she talked with WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.

Protesters Stage Die-In At Grand Central Terminal Over Eric Garner Decision

459893622 Protesters Swarm West Side Highway, Try To Disrupt Tree Lighting After Garner Decision
Holli Haerr reports

“This is a disgrace, a disgrace,” she said. “The coroner said he contributed to that man’s death.”

Tears rolled down the woman’s cheeks as furious words poured from her mouth.

“There ain’t no justice if we, if you’re black,” she said. “You only get justice if you’re white.”

Some people at the Staten Island protest said they felt like targets, and that police are allowed to do whatever they want.

At the Staten Island scene, Garner’s stepfather asked an angry man to cool off – saying peace is more powerful, CBS2’s Weijia Jiang reported.

The protesters’ sentiment was also echoed in in the Washington, D.C.

“You don’t have to be a lawyer or an ex prosecutor to know a human being was killed,” said U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) “He was surrounded by policeman. No one else touched him and the grand jury did not say that he committed suicide.”

New York State Assemblyman-elect Charles Barron said he thought cellphone video of Garner’s arrest would be enough for an indictment.

“Michael Vick got convicted for killing dogs and I’m all for protecting animals,” Barron said. “But how to do you kill a black life and it’s shown on video to the world, and we don’t get an indictment?”

Last week, thousands marched across Manhattan protesting the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown shooting.

Protesters blocked an entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel and shut down the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and also completely blocked traffic on the FDR Drive and the West Side Highway.

The NYPD vowed that it would take action if any Garner protests get out of hand.

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