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Thousands of people shocked and upset about a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict an officer who strangled a 43-year-old grandfather to death in July took to the New York City streets to shut down roads, bridges, and the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Hours earlier, Mayor Bill de Blasio canceled his appearance at the highly publicized event, vowing to meet with the family of Eric Garner and activists pushing for the reform of police practices that for so long have resulted in the death of black and brown people nationwide.

The protesters, some in larger groups than others, converged to shut down the tree ceremony near Radio City Hall all while chanting “No Justice, No Peace, Fuck that Christmas Tree.” Others opted for the refrain “I Can’t Breathe,” — Garner’s last words before he died.

Police officers attempted to block protesters with barricades and vehicles, threatening arrests for anyone in the middle of the street.

Eventually the crowd moved on, staging die-in’s at Columbus Circle, shutting down the West Side Highway, and clogging the Brooklyn Bridge and Times Square.

Earlier in the evening, hundreds took to Grand Central Station to stage a die-in, where they refused to speak to law enforcement officers.

According to an NYPD spokesperson, 83 people were arrested Wednesday night. Most face charges of disorderly conduct.

From DNA Info:

Earlier, on Staten Island, dozens gathered on Bay Street chanting “no justice, no peace, no racist police” near where a passerby’s cellphone camera recorded NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo grappling with Garner during his arrest for allegedly selling loose cigarettes in July.

The city’s medical examiner ruled his death a homicide and said a chokehold used by Pantaleo was partly to blame.

“I don’t understand how the coroner could declare it a homicide, they said a chokehold was illegal, our commissioner said it was against the rules,” said Jeanette Johnson, who was friends with Garner. “But the chokehold today was OK. A man died but I guess that’s OK. It’s OK if it’s a police officer.”

Before residents (who were also joined by protesters in Ferguson) took to the streets, de Blasio promised comprehensive police reforms, adding that black lives do indeed matter.

“We have initiated a comprehensive plan to retrain the entire NYPD to reduce the use of excessive force and to work with the community. We have changed our marijuana policy to reduce low-level arrests, and we have launched a new pilot program for body cameras for officers to improve transparency and accountability,” the mayor said in a statement.

De Blasio added that he trusts protesters will “make their views known in the same peaceful, constructive way.”

The mayor said Garner’s death should “put a spotlight on police-community relations.”

“This is a deeply emotional day — for the Garner Family, and all New Yorkers. His death was a terrible tragedy that no family should have to endure,” the mayor said. “This is a subject that is never far from my family’s minds — or our hearts.”

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Garner family during this difficult time.

SOURCE: DNA Info, Twitter | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Twitter

NYC Protests Following Eric Garner Grand Jury Non-Indictment (PHOTOS)
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