Eric Garner decision: Powerful images show protesters flooding streets across the US

Demonstrators massed in cities including New York, Washington and Chicago

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The Independent US

Protesters have flooded the streets of New York, Chicago and Washington for a second night of rallies against the clearing of a white police officer who choked an unarmed black man.

Powerful images showed thousands of marchers carrying pictures of Eric Garner and placards reading “black lives matter” and “justice now” in demonstrations spreading across the US little over a week after another white officer escaped indictment for killing Michael Brown.

Hundreds of placards on Thursday night bore the slogan “Ferguson is everywhere” in reference to the shooting of 18-year-old Mr Brown, who was also black and unarmed.

In New York’s iconic Grand Central Station, hundreds of protesters lay on the floor in a “die in” as at least 3,000 people congregated in Times Square, shouting at police: “Who do you protect?”

Mr Garner’s death is one of numerous cases where unarmed black men and boys have died after confrontations with white police officers in the US this year alone.

The 43-year-old died shortly after being restrained by Daniel Pantaleo in Staten Island, New York, in July after he denied selling cigarettes illegally and accused police of harassing him.

A video of the incident went viral online, with Mr Garner heard shouting “I can’t breathe” repeatedly.

The city’s medical examiner’s office found he died due to the compression of his neck, chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police but on Wednesday, a grand jury decided not to indict officer Pantaleo.

Protesters demanding justice for Eric Garner enter Brooklyn off the Brooklyn Bridge in New York on 4 December

He could still face disciplinary action from an internal police investigation, his lawyer Stuart London said, adding that he expects his client to be swiftly exonerated.

The probe is expected to focus on whether officer Pantaleo employed a chokehold, which is banned in most circumstances. Mr London said his client testified to the grand jury that he never put pressure on Mr Garner's neck and was using a legal method of restraint.

His dying chant of “I can’t breathe” has been taken up by the thousands of protesters across the US, who snaked through the streets of Manhattan during Thursday’s evening rush hour, bringing traffic to a standstill as they were joined by passers-by.

Tensions rose as hundreds of police were deployed to remove a large crowd congregated in Times Square, where there were a number of arrests.

Sharon Gordon, 52, a protester from New Jersey, said she believed the protests and continuing demonstrations over Mr Garner's death and the shooting of Mr Brown could make a difference to police policy. “There's been a confluence of social media and outrage,” she added. “I do believe for the first time we're about to make a change.”

Demonstrations also crossed two bridges connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn, briefly blocking traffic, and converged  at the ferry terminal for Staten Island, where Mr Garner died.

A smaller crowd confronted police, with one shouting at riot police: “We are not violent. We are not touching you. What are you doing with that baton, brother?” Officers did not reply.

Oakland-protests.jpgIn Washington, hundreds took to the streets chanting “no justice, no peace, no racist police,“ as they passed the Justice Department, neared the White House and the Washington Monument, where they blocked traffic with another “die in”.

In Minneapolis, dozens of protesters blocked traffic on a huge interstate motorway, marching and lying down in the road as police tried to move them on.

Protesters in Chicago also blocked traffic and the Boston Globe reported that a thousands-strong crowd gathered at the annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in the city centre.

A subway station had to be closed in Oakland, California, due to a “civil disturbance” related to the Eric Garner protests and a “die in” forced police to divert traffic in San Francisco.

Eric Holder, the US Attorney General, has mounted a civil rights review of the Ferguson shooting and promised a full probe of the New York case.

Both deaths have re-ignited debate over the perception that America’s law enforcement system unfairly targets African Americans and other minorities, often using excessing force.

Protesters staging a 'die in' by the Washington Memorial on 4 December

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who took office in January promising to improve police relations with minorities, said all officers would undergo extensive re-training.

"The relationship between police and community has to change," he added. "People need to know that black lives and brown lives matter as much as white lives."

Additional reporting by AP