Hundreds gather in fresh New York protests over police impunity for Eric Garner's death

Hundreds gather in fresh New York protests over police impunity for Eric Garner's death

NEW YORK - Agence France-Presse
Hundreds gather in fresh New York protests over police impunity for Eric Garners death

Marchers approach the West Side Highway during a protest Dec. 4 in New York. Protests began after a Grand Jury decided to not indict officer Daniel Pantaleo. Eric Garner died after being put in a chokehold by Pantaleo on July 17, 2014. AFP Photo

More than 1,500 people gathered in New York on Dec. 4 for a second night of protests against the chokehold death of an unarmed black father-of-six by a white police officer.

The crowd massed in Foley Square, near City Hall and New York police headquarters, shouting "Shut it down" and carrying placards saying "Black Lives Matter" and "Racism Kills."       

Several helicopters flew overhead, monitoring the swelling crowd as they chanted "No justice, no peace."       

It is the second consecutive night that demonstrators took to the streets of New York to condemn a grand jury's decision not to indict the officer over the July 17 death of Eric Garner.

Protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful but police arrested 83 people overnight and have been braced for possible unrest after a similar decision in Ferguson, Missouri last week sparked riots there and demonstrations in cities across America, including in New York.

The St Louis suburb, a two-hour flight from New York, has been a hub of protest and racial tensions since unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead on August 9 by a white police officer.

Both cases, along with the death of a 12-year-old black boy who was gunned down by police officers in Ohio while handling a toy pistol in a playground, have inflamed underlying disgruntlement in the United States in relations between police and African Americans.

The protest in New York began in Union Square, where activists lay on the ground shouting "I can't breathe" and "Hands up, don't shoot," rallying cries of the protests against Garner and Brown's deaths.

Margarita Rosario, whose 18-year-old son Anthony and nephew were killed by police in 1995, said nothing would change until America's biggest city of eight million responded as Ferguson did.

"This guy (Garner) begged for his life and they didn't care. It was the same with my son 20 years ago," she told AFP.

"Nothing will change here until people will react like in Ferguson. One day people will say enough and that will happen," said Rosario, originally from Puerto Rico but living in the Bronx.

"Here you can beg for your life but the police will not care."                       

Police impunity intolerable

Julien Terrell, one of the rally's organizers and a member of The Brotherhood/Sister SOL youth group that fosters young leadership, told AFP: "We want full accountability for Eric Garner.

"We want the department of justice to take over the investigation and make sure that they're keeping a watchful eye but also an aggressive eye on the police tactics that the NYPD are doing.

"We don't want our neighborhoods to be hyper-policed and for us to be criminalized."       

Garner's arrest was caught on an amateur video which showed the heavy-set asthma sufferer gasping multiple times "I can't breathe, I can't breathe" as officers pinned him to the ground.

Kelli Ogbuzuo, a 29-year-old lawyer with a legal aid society in the Bronx, said race played a "big role" in his death.

"He would have been treated differently if he were white," she said.

Lawyers from across New York's five boroughs were taking part in the rally, she said.

"I'm really impressed to see that many people," she added. "It's so great that people of all races are all here saying the same thing, that black lives matter."       

Protesters vowed no let-up in their campaign.

"We will not stop until something is done," 40-year-old protester Jonathan told AFP.

"We cannot tolerate police impunity. The government has to react. They had a video showing what happened, what else do they need?"