NEW YORK — Thousands of protesters took over New York late Wednesday, upset over a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner.
They marched at the same time U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced federal officials were moving ahead with a civil rights investigation.
Garner, an unarmed black man, died in July after a white officer, Daniel Pantaleo, put him in a chokehold.
Video of Garner’s death sparked outrage with his final words, “I can’t breathe.” His death was later ruled a homicide.
“I’m determined to get justice for my husband because he shouldn’t have been killed in that way. He shouldn’t have been killed in any way,” said Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner.
“He should be here, celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving and everything else, with his children and his grandchildren. And he can’t. Why? Because a cop did wrong. Somebody that gets paid to do right did wrong and he’s not held accountable for it. But my husband’s death will not be in vain. As long as I have a breath in my body I will fight the fight till the end.”
Protesters gathered at various points in Manhattan, including Times Square and Union Square, marching peacefully north as crowds formed near Rockefeller Center for the lighting of the Christmas tree. Columbus Circle was blocked for a time.
There were demonstrations in other cities too, including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Oakland, California.
“No Justice. No peace,” protesters chanted in New York. “No racist police.”
This is the second time in a week that a white officer has been cleared in a black man’s death, sparking racial tensions across the nation.
Federal authorities conducting a similar investigation in the Ferguson, Missouri police shooting case. Darren Wilson resigned this week, just days after he was cleared in the death of unarmed Michael Brown.