The massive protests which have rocked New York City since a Grand Jury decided on Wednesday against indicting NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner have spread nationwide, spurring thousands of U.S citizens to take to the streets and voice their dissent in major cities across the country. Protesters have flooded the streets and held demonstrations in public spaces every day since the jury decision in the Garner case to voice their collective outrage against what is seen by many to be a systemic issue of injustice and racial bias in law enforcement and the justice system as a whole.
The current round of nationwide protests began in New York City on Wednesday when hundreds of outraged citizens took to the streets to showcase a rising tide of dissent after a grand jury in Staten Island declined to indict Pataleo for his role in the death of Eric Garner. Garner was a Staten Island resident and father of six who lost his life on July 17 when Pantaleo used an ill-advised NYPD takedown technique which conntributed to his death. Pantaleo can be seen in a cellphone video taken of the incident using an illegal choke-hold technique to wrestle Garner to the sidewalk, where the asthmatic man was subdued by several officers and repeatedly called out “I can’t breathe” before becoming motionless moments later. Garner died in a hospital hours after the incident and his last words “I can’t breathe” have become a rallying cry among thousands of protesters throughout the nation. Immediately following the grand jury decision, hundreds of angry New York City residents amassed on Staten Island while hundreds of others staged demonstrations in various locations around the city, such as “die-ins” in Grand Central Terminal and a failed attempt to disrupt the lighting ceremony of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.
On Thursday, the ranks of the protests swelled to immense proportions as thousands of citizens amassed in numerous locations throughout the city including the iconic Foley Square in Lower Manhattan, where deafening chants of “I can’t breathe” echoed throughout the skyscraper lined avenues of the financial district. Thousands of protesters then marched onto the Brooklyn bridge carrying black coffins and signs reading “We can’t breathe,” staging one of the largest demonstrations seen on the iconic landmark since the Occupy Wall Street era protests of 2011, while thousands of others marched onto the Manhattan bridge and blocked traffic near the Holland Tunnel and West Side highway. The protests in New York City were largely peaceful, aside from a brief clash in Times Square between demonstrators voicing their dissent and riot armor clad police officers, the NYPD reported arresting 223 protesters.
The ongoing protests taking place in New York City have served to spur thousands of citizens in Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C, Denver and other major cities nationwide to join the demonstrations by flooding streets, bridges, monuments and other public spaces to voice their dissent. Similar scale demonstrations of dissent have taken place in Boston and Chicago, where on Thursday thousands flooded the streets and chanted slogans like “we can’t breathe” and “this stops today.” Smaller scale demonstrations have also taken place in numerous other cities nationwide such as in Washington D.C, Denver, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh, where demonstrators marched through the city raising their hands in the now iconic “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture and staged “die-in” demonstrations at various locations throughout the city. Demonstrations of dissent also occurred on University campuses throughout the state of California, where student activists from Berkeley and the University of Southern California staged protests which featured “die-ins” and colorful banners adorned with art and slogans that demonstrated their solidarity with protesters in Ferguson and New York.
On Friday, the nationwide display of public dissent continued as hundreds of protesters braved the freezing rain in New York City to stage demonstrations in Foley Square, Columbus Circle and Rockefeller center, while in hundreds amassed in Chicago for a third straight day. In New York, demonstrators stormed the Flagship Macy’s department store in Herald Square, where the energetic protests were greeted by curiosity from the staff and a perplexed albeit supportive response from customers. “There is a message that must be heard, and they are making it heard” commented Al Al-Muaimi, a tourist visiting from the United Arab Emirates who watched on as protesters marched throughout the store chanting and waving posters. Protesters also marched into Grand Central Terminal, where they staged “die-in” demonstrations amid the bustle of evening commuters, and around 10:30 hundreds of demonstrators marching through Manhattan’s lower east side attempted to climb over the concrete barriers surrounding F.D.R in an effort to shut down the highway, but were thwarted when the NYPD deployed a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) to disperse the crowd and arrested any who remained on the roadway, manhandling several men and women as they wrestled them to the ground and bound their hands with zip-ties.
Chicago also joined New York City and other cities nationwide on Friday in the ongoing protests as hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the corner of 63rd and King in the South Side Woodlawn community to voice their dissent. Protesters also gathered on the corner of Madison and Pulaski on the city’s west side, where they chanted slogans like “fight back against police brutality.” The demonstration was coordinated by a Chicago based organization called the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, which includes many members who are relatives of crime victims involving police officers. Group leaders state that they want a greater degree of control over policing methods and protection against instances of police brutality.
The protests erupting in new York on a daily basis since the grand jury decision on Wednesday have helped to spur the development of a nationwide demonstration of dissent that shows no signs of abating anytime in the near future. Protesters across the country have vowed to keep up the fight for justice by returning to the streets on a daily basis, and established community institutions have scheduled solidarity demonstrations in support of the protests, such as several Chicago churches which have planned a unity march at 11 am on Sunday.
By: Charles Stephen Craun
Photo courtesy of The All-Nite Images-Flickr License
Photo courtesy of The All-Nite Images-Flickr License