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Protests erupt in New York after jury decision in police death

New York, Dec 4 (AFP) Thousands of protesters hit the streets of New York after a grand jury declined to charge a white police officer in the choking death of a black man, days after a similar decision sparked unrest in US cities.

Soon after the decision by the grand jury, hundreds of protesters converged on Rockefeller Center and in New York City’s iconic Times Square chanting “No justice, no peace,” the rallying cry of demonstrators already angered by a separate grand jury decision last week not to indict a white policeman in the fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Police made at least 30 arrests, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.

A series of small protests converged into a march of about 5,000 people down Broadway and eventually into Times Square, the Washington Post reported. Drivers stuck in traffic by the march honked their horns in solidarity, the paper said.

Both cases, coupled 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 reignited a longstanding debate in the United States about relations between law enforcement and African Americans, as well as accusations of overly aggressive policing.

Following Wednesday’s jury decision, Attorney General Eric Holder said the US Justice Department will launch a federal civil rights investigation into the case of Eric Garner, 43, who died after being placed in a chokehold by New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo while being arrested on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island, a NYC borough.

An amateur video of the arrest shows Garner, a heavy set man who suffered from asthma and had six children, gasping “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” as police officers held him to the ground with his throat constricted.

Holder’s announcement means Pantaleo could still face trial. Protesters in Times Square waved signs with messages such as “Black lives matter,” and “Respect human lives.”

There was another protest at Grand Central Terminal, where about 50 protesters lay, pretending to be dead, and on Staten Island, where Garner’s clash with police happened. Small demonstrations also broke out in Harlem, Union Square and Columbus Circle, while there were similarly small but peaceful protests in Washington, DC.

In New York, demonstrator Susan Schneider told AFP: “The police has impunity. They can run away whatever they do. “And when you see them on the streets, how they are equipped, it’s like war. It’s worse than in the 60s. The racism is more strong now.”

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