More than 200 people were arrested overnight Thursday in New York as protesters swarmed the city’s streets and other cities across the United States for a second day to denounce a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man.
The wave of protest began on Wednesday after no charges were brought against Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his role in a confrontation on July 17 that killed Eric Garner and was captured on video by a bystander.
The reaction echoes the outrage after a grand jury also declined to indict a white policeman for killing an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, and is part of a larger effort to highlight what some believe is an ongoing national problem of police brutality.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has mounted a civil rights review of the Missouri shooting and promised a full investigation of the New York case.
The second round of protests in New York City began Thursday evening during rush hour, with participants weaving between cars and trucks and bringing traffic on some streets to a near standstill. The marches picked up recruits along the way, shifted directions, splintered and regrouped and remained relatively peaceful.
Outside of New York, hundreds of people also demonstrated in Washington D.C., chanting, "No justice, no peace, no racist police," as they passed the Justice Department, neared the White House and headed to the Washington Monument. Protesters staged a "die-in" there, sprawling on the roadway to block traffic.
Several thousand people rallied peacefully in Boston to protest the lack of indictment as well. Protesters blocked some streets Thursday night while marching to Boston Common, where the city's annual tree lighting ceremony was being held. Others attempted to block an entrance to the Massachusetts Turnpike. At least six arrests were reported, four by state police and two by Boston officers. No injuries were reported.
Elsewhere, protesters also blocked traffic on Interstate 35W in Minneapolis and on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Other demonstrations prompted officials to close two Bay Area Rapid Transit stops in Oakland, California, and re-route bus traffic around part of San Francisco's Market Street.
Unlike the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Missouri, Garner's encounter with New York police was captured on video by a bystander's mobile phone. It showed Pantaleo wrapping his arm around Garner's throat and wrestling him to the sidewalk as three other officers help subdue him.
Garner repeatedly gasped, "I can't breathe" — a phrase protesters have taken up a rallying cry.
He was being arrested for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally in Staten Island.
Pantaleo could still face disciplinary action from an internal police investigation, his lawyer Stuart London said. That investigation is likely to focus on whether Pantaleo used a chokehold, which is banned by police department regulations
Pantaleo told the grand jury he used a proper takedown technique and never put pressure on Garner's neck, according to London. The city's medical examiner has said Garner's death was caused by compressing his neck and chest, with his asthma and obesity contributing.
Although chokeholds are officially prohibited, the police patrol guide is vague about whether they are permitted under certain circumstances, said Maria Haberfeld, who heads the law and criminal justice department at John Jay College.
That gray area, she said, may have influenced the grand jury and could be a factor in the departmental probe.
Al Jazeera and Reuters. Wilson Dizard contributed to this report from New York City.