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No indictment in Eric Garner's death sparks demonstrations

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks after a grand jury decided not to indict New York Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Eric Garner's death on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

The NYPD said early Thursday that 83 people were arrested, most for disorderly conduct, in protesting the Eric Garner grand jury decision.

Meanwhile, in a call to unify, Mayor Bill de Blasio sent an open email letter to New Yorkers Thursday morning titled "The city we need to be."

"We must be mindful that issues surrounding policing and civil rights are not just an issue for people of color . . . They're a problem for all Americans who care about justice," he said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, joined by civil rights leaders late Thursday morning, announced a march on Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13 to call for federal action in police brutality cases.

Sharpton said the grand jury system on the state level is broken and seems "to lack the capacity to deal with police when you are dealing with questions of criminality and killers."

From the north shore of Staten Island where Garner died on July 17 to Grand Central Terminal and Rockefeller Center, demonstrators marched in protest of Wednesday's grand jury decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo.

Garner, 43, died July 17 after Pantaleo held him in an apparent chokehold during a confrontation with cops who were trying to arrest him as he allegedly sold untaxed cigarettes.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday night that the Justice Department will launch a civil rights investigation into Garner's death.

De Blasio sounded a somber note without directly criticizing the grand jury decision in an interview Thursday morning on hip-hop station Hot 97.

"I don't judge any judicial proceeding. I don't judge any investigations that I'm not a part of," de Blasio said.

"I watched the video as a human being, and I saw a man die who shouldn't have died. And I saw him crying out for his life in a way that made me just feel something went horribly wrong and can't happen again."

Just before 10 p.m. on Wednesday, a mass of young, old, black and white protesters surged down the driving lanes of the West Side Highway in both directions before a 400-strong crowd covered the roadway with their bodies.

For 10 minutes, they chanted "No peace, no justice" and "Whose street? Our street!" or shouted vulgarities at the police officers, positioned on one side of the highway.

Earlier, hundreds of protesters in Times Square and Union Square headed to Rockefeller Center chanting along the way, "I can't breathe."

Police arrested several people after warning the crowd to clear out of the street near Rockefeller Center, where throngs of demonstrators snarled traffic but did not interfere with the annual tree lighting.

About 30 protesters gathered at Grand Central Terminal for a "die-in," silently lying down amid evening commuters.

An hour later, the protesters got up and started chanting "Eric Garner," then his last words, "I can't breathe," as they walked out, heading toward Times Square.

"It's for the Garner family. We want to show them we are here for them in solidarity," said Melvin Hydleburg, 20, from the Bronx.

Tuqan Wright, 23, from Harlem said: "I'm here for Eric Garner, I'm here for Trayvon Martin, I'm here for Michael Brown, and I'm here for everybody else that has been taken advantage of and is being devalued as human beings."

In Staten Island, small groups of people gathered at the spot near Bay Street and Victory Boulevard where Garner died, talking among themselves about the injustice of the grand jury decision.

Garner’s stepfather Benjamin Carr said he was shocked at the lack of an indictment, not even "a little something."

"There’s no justice in Staten Island. There’s no justice here," Carr said. "There's a different set of laws when it comes to the blacks and police."

Linder Hampton, 59, of Tottenville, said she feels for Garner's family.

"There was an innocent life snuffed out over a misdemeanor," Hampton said. "It shouldn't be."

With Newsday


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