America has reached a boiling point.
For the third night in a row since it was announced that the New York City police officer associated with Eric Garner’s July death from an apparent chokehold would not face criminal charges, protesters took to the streets of New York and other major cities nationwide – including Boston, Chicago, Miami and Washington, DC – chanting familiar refrains, including “No justice, no peace, no racist police!”
Across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, social media users continued posting hashtags like #ICantBreathe, #BlackLivesMatter, and #CrimingWhileWhite.
Despite Friday’s frigid rain – with Manhattan’s temperatures dipping into the low 40s and a forecast threatening snow overnight – activists forged ahead with their plan to assemble publicly, moved to action by the increasingly apparent problems with American law enforcement which have been brought to light in recent weeks by the shooting deaths of several unarmed black males at the hands of white police officers.
Protesters in New York City staged at least two “die-ins,” in which participants simulated death for dramatic effect. The first took place round 6:30 p.m. local time in Fifth Avenue’s Apple Store. The second occurred shortly before 8:00 p.m. in New York’s famed Macy’s Herald Square, a popular holiday destination for tourists. Afterwards, a spokesman for Macy’s confirmed that “protesters were in the store and caused minor disruption.”
In Miami, a group of protesters marched onto Interstate 195, locking arms, chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” and blocking traffic into the downtown area.
In Massachusetts, a crowd estimated to be more than 1,000 strong marched nearly two miles from Somerville to Cambridge, where several hundred staged a “die-in” in Harvard Square.
Just last week, it was announced that a grand jury opted not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in August’s shooting death of unarmed, black teenager Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri. The decision sparked outrage throughout the St. Louis area and across the United States. Then, on Wednesday, a similar announcement came out of New York, when a grand jury decided not to indict the officer associated with Garner’s death, further fueling the country’s growing discontent, and seemingly motivating even more Americans to take to the streets and to make their voices heard.
Garner, a black father of six, died after NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in an apparent chokehold in July after officers detained him for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Garner was unarmed at the time, and the incident was captured by eyewitnesses on cell-phone video and broadcast widely across various media platforms. In the video, Garner can be heard exclaiming repeatedly, “I can’t breathe!” – a refrain echoed by protesters in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Pantaleo.
Earlier Friday, in a display of solidarity with the Garner and Brown protesters, hundreds of Philadelphia high school students walked out of morning classes chanting, “No justice! No peace!” Students staged a similar walk-out in Denver.
In Chicago, protesters gathered not far from downtown, and planned a second protest for later in the day. Meanwhile in Missouri, about 50 people protesting Michael Brown’s death neared the Capitol in Jefferson City after a 130-mile march.
On Thursday, a group of about 100 people staged a “die-in” near the White House as a Christmas tree lighting ceremony took place about a block away, NBC Washington reported.
“Fundamental questions are being asked, and rightfully so,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news conference Thursday. “The way we go about policing has to change.”
Additional reporting by Tracy Jarrett.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.