UPDATED 12/05/14 12:16 a.m.
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Demonstrators took to the streets all around Manhattan, clashing with police officers, in a the second night of protests a day after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner.
When the protests began early Thursday evening, a crowd of a few hundreds morphed into an estimated 10,000 protesters in Foley Square in Lower Manhattan.
“Everybody’s got these posters that say black lives matter, but it doesn’t seem as if it does,” said protester Martha Fay.
In Foley Square, the protesters rallied around a sculpture called “Triumph of the Human Spirit” by artist Lorenzo Pace, which serves as a monument to the African-American experience.
“We’re out here exercising our rights and everything is peaceful. There’s no violence. There’s no drugs. There’s no anything,” said protester John Dorsey. “Everybody is here together – black, white, brown everybody.”
The protesters moved on in several directions afterward. One group headed to the West Side Highway near West 10th Street, shutting down the highway for the second night in a row; it was reopened around 9 p.m.
Tensions rose during rush hours, as commuters on the West Side Highway yelled at the protesters to go away.
Another group marched across the Brooklyn Bridge, which police shut down completely afterward.
“Shut it down,” could be heard being chanted enthusiastically by the group crossing the Brooklyn Bridge into downtown Brooklyn. Some protesters chanted “Eric Garner, Michael Brown, shut it down, shut it down,” referring also to the Ferguson, Missouri case in which the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown was not indicted.
Some protesters also carried makeshift coffins, with the names of those who have died allegedly at the hands of NYPD officers, as they walked along the Brooklyn Bridge.
As Haskell reported, a police car was positioned to block Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn, but the crowd trickled through, walking among the cars.
And at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at Bowling Green, protesters knocked down barricades and a few of them clashed with police. One person was seen punching an officer, while another was seen swinging a sign.
One protester at Bowling Green was seen on Chopper 2 being hauled off by police. There was no official word on arrests as of 9 p.m. Thursday.
Another protest got physical at the corner of 8th Avenue and 14th Street, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.
In the reported altercation between the crowd and police, members of the crowd began running away and a few protesters were rubbing their eyes as if in pain, Smith reported. One man alleged he had been pepper sprayed.
Police in riot gear diffused the situation, Smith reported.
Many of the protesters said they were fed up with law enforcement and the justice system.
“This is what I have to teach my son,” said protester Tiffany Garriga. “You get your education and watch you back — not from bullies, but from police.”
Others, such as student Jeenie Yoon, expressed hope that change would happen.
“I think it’s going to take a long time,” she said. “If you think about the Civil Rights Movement, it took 10 years for anything to happen between the protests and the boycott for the buses to the actual Civil Rights Act.”
Protests were also held in Union Square, on other East River bridges, and at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. And the demonstrators continued late into the night, with heated confrontations and several arrests at 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue in Times Square just before 11 p.m.
Protesters were still going well after midnight. At 12:15 a.m., they were seen marching between cars down busy 53rd Street in Midtown.
Police said there were numerous arrests, but exact figures would not be available until Friday morning.
Similar protests on behalf of Garner were also held around the country. In Chicago, a handful of protesters briefly got onto the Kennedy Expressway before police officers shooed them off, CBS Chicago reported.
In Boston, protesters gathered on Boston Common for a protest during the annual tree lighting, CBS Boston reported.
Thursday marked the second night that demonstrators took the streets to protest the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in connection with Garner’s death.
On Wednesday, protesters took blocked the West Side Highway, Brooklyn Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel. At Grand Central Terminal, demonstrators laid on the floor in the main hall during rush hour.
Hundreds also converged on Times Square and around Rockefeller Center, where the annual tree lighting ceremony was taking place. The grand jury’s decision also sparked protests around the country.
“This fight ain’t over. It just begun,” said Garner’s widow, Esaw.
While most of the protests in New York City were peaceful, police said 83 people were arrested, mostly for disorderly conduct.
De Blasio said police planned to use a similar strategy to handling protests Thursday night.
“We respect the right of protests, but we will keep order,” the mayor said. “It’s a very straightforward formula. This department has an extraordinary tradition of respecting the right of people to speak, but also drawing a line when that might create disorder or violence.”
De Blasio said he was happy with how the NYPD handled protests Wednesday.
“A lot of people demonstrated last night,” he said. “They expressed their First Amendment rights. Overwhelmingly, the demonstrations were peaceful. And I want to say the response by the NYPD was exactly the right one. It was smart, it was strategic, it was agile.”
Sharpton’s D.C. March
Decrying the grand jury decision, the Rev. Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders said a civil rights summit will be held following a march in Washington on Dec. 13.
“The federal government must do in the 21st century what they did in the mid-20th century — federal intervention had to come into the South to protect people’s civil rights and voting rights,” he said. “Federal intervention must come now.”
Sharpton made the comments following a meeting with about 20 civil rights leaders Thursday morning at his National Action Network headquarters in Harlem.
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, called the grand jury’s decision “a travesty of justice.”
“Yesterday’s decision by the Staten Island grand jury defied common sense,” he said.
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.
In cellphone video of the incident, Pantaleo, who is white, is seen placing his arm around Garner’s neck in an apparent chokehold and then taking him to the ground after Garner refuses to be handcuffed.
Garner, who was black, is heard saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe!” He died a short time later.
The New York City Medical Examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, caused by the officer’s apparent chokehold as well as chest and neck compressions and prone positioning “during physical restraint by police.” Asthma, heart disease and obesity were also contributing factors.
An independent forensic investigator hired by the Garner family also agreed with the medical examiner’s findings.
The grand jury began hearing evidence in the case on Sept. 29, which included testimony by Pantaleo.
Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donoval said the grand jury found “no reasonable cause” to bring charges against Pantaleo. Twelve of the 23 jurors needed to be in agreement for any charges to be filed.
Donovan added that he has applied for a court order to release specific information in the case to the public, required under state law. On Thursday, a judge released limited information on the grand jury proceedings.
Police union officials and Pantaleo’s lawyer said he used an authorized take down move and not a chokehold against Garner and said Garner’s poor health was a main cause in his death.
“He ended up using a take-down method the way was taught in the academy and when Mr. Garner was not compliant, then it became more complicated,” Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stuart London, said. “Although it may look one way, when explained properly, as my client did in front of the grand jury, you can see that although it looks like the arm is around the neck, there’s no pressure being applied at all.”
“It was just decision, a difficult decision we understand, but it was a just decision — why? Because it was based on the facts that were on the table. Not what was going on in the street or not what others may want it to be,” Patrick Lynch, president of Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said Thursday.
Pantaleo released a statement Wednesday, saying: “I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves. It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner. My family and I include him and his family in our prayers and I hope that they will accept my personal condolences for their loss.”
Garner’s widow expressed no sympathy.
“The time for remorse would have been when my husband was screaming to breathe,” Esaw Garner said. “That would have been the time for him to show some type of remorse or some type of care for another human being’s life, when he was screaming 11 times that he can’t breathe.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed late Wednesday that the justice department is opening a probe into Garner’s death.
Pantaleo also faces a full department probe from the NYPD. The administrative investigation will look at all the elements of the event, including the actions of all officers present.
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