On Wednesday thousands took to New York City streets to protest the grand jury decision. Protesters staged a “die-in” at Grand Central Terminal and blocked traffic on the city’s West Side Highway, which was briefly shut down. Demonstrators also caused backups at major traffic arteries, including the Lincoln Tunnel, Brooklyn Bridge and Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. The NYPD arrested 80 people amid largely peaceful protests.
Such protests — disruptive to traffic, but non-violent — resumed after nightfall Thursday, including on Staten Island and at Manhattan's Foley Square and Union Square.
A diverse crowd gathered at Foley Square chanting for justice. One group chanted "fue el estado (the state did it)" a slogan borrowed from protests in Mexico concerning the recent disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero state. At one point, the crowd broke into song, with the refrain: "I can hear my brother yelling 'I can't breathe'," a reference to Garner's last words.
Kamilah Duggins, 36, was among those who attended the rally. "You feel hopeless sitting at home, you want to come out and be with a community of people feeling the same," she said.
The protests grew during the evening and snaked through Manhattan. Protesters staged sporadic sit-ins at interesections, before police in riot gear asked them to move along or face arrest. Most protesters complied with the request.
A second and third wave of marchers later crossed two bridges into Manhattan from Brooklyn, briefly closing both spans to traffic. The main group of demonstrators briefly closed the West Side Highway, on the other side of the island of Manhattan, resulting in a handful of arrests.
Tensions rose as a crowd of at least 3,000 congregated in Times Square about an hour before midnight, shouting at police, "Who do you protect?" as hundreds more officers moved in steadily to force protesters back onto sidewalks. There were a number of arrests, but no overt outbursts of violence.
Protests also erupted Thursday outside New York.
In Washington, hundreds took to the streets chanting, "No justice, no peace, no racist police," as they marched by the U.S. Justice Department, passed near the White House and headed on to the Washington Monument. Protesters staged a "die-in" there, sprawling on the roadway to block traffic.
Demonstrators gathered in downtown Atlanta, with roughly 100 turning out near the Five Points MARTA train station and a crowd of demonstrators, reported by the Boston Globe to have numbered in the thousands, gathered at the annual holiday tree-lighting ceremony on the Boston Common. At least 10 people were arrested in Boston.
In Chicago, where hundreds blocked Lake Shore Drive along Lake Michigan, protesters were thwarted in their efforts to march to Soldier Field, where a Bears-Cowboys football game was scheduled. They reversed course and at the city's Dan Ryan Expressway, about two dozen demonstrators darted onto the road and briefly blocked five lanes. At least two people were arrested, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Detroit protesters lay down on the ground for a "die-in" at the city's Campus Martius at midday as temperatures hovered around freezing.
In Denver, students from at least four high schools joined in protest, the Denver Post reported. Students from Abraham Lincoln High School left class and walked about 6 miles to the Capitol, snarling traffic. Buses were sent to pick up the students after the protest.
Minneapolis demonstrators decrying police treatment of minorities stopped traffic for several hours on Interstate 35W near downtown before rallying at City Hall. They were joined by fast-food workers demanding higher wages and union rights.
Protesters marched through foggy Oakland and blocked Market Street in San Francisco. There was one arrest in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Earlier in the day, around 20 civil rights leaders met behind closed doors at the New York City headquarters of Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network to plan a response to the jury's decision.
Sharpton said a civil rights summit would be held following a December 13 march in Washington on racial justice.
National Urban League President Marc Morial said on Thursday that he and other civil rights leaders were calling for 2015 to be "a year for justice and jobs".
The case of Garner — combined with the decision by a grand jury two weeks ago not to charge the white officer who shot and killed unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri — has stirred a national conversation about race, police training and the grand jury process.