Flanked by the city courts, Foley Square in Downtown Manhattan was flooded with thousands of people protesting the grand jury decision of the Eric Garner case on Wednesday. The crowd was made up of activist groups such as Make the Road New York, Desis Rising Up and Moving, Cop Watch and individual residents who felt the grand jury’s decision not to indict anyone for his death was unjust.
Garner, a Staten Island native, was standing on the street allegedly selling loose cigarettes when he was confronted by police. When he said “This ends today,” he was grabbed from behind and put into a chokehold or, some claim, a headlock. He died of suffocation several minutes later while police and emergency personnel stood by without assisting him. The ordeal was captured on video and quickly went viral.
The crowd in Foley Square was diverse. People of all ages, races and genders chanted things like “Eric Garner, Michael Brown, shut the whole system down” and “No justice, no peace. No racist police.”
The original plan was to have protesters cross the bridge into Brooklyn, but the group quickly split up into as many as four contingents. Many major corridors, including Broadway, Canal Street and the West Side Highway were completely shut down by marchers, causing major traffic delays.
One group had a New Orleans-style brass band playing uplifting music as marchers walked down Canal Street. Many drivers shot video of the event, and some even beeped their horns and placed signs in their windows out of solidarity.
While the group, estimated at 3,000 to 4,000, did disrupt traffic flow, protesters were largely peaceful. There were 200 arrests after a group of marchers attempted to board the Staten Island Ferry, but the activists are expected to be released with minor to no charges.
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