Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of New York City after a Staten Island grand jury on Wednesday decided not to indict New York Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, the unarmed Black man whose untimely demise was captured on video while in a chokehold, igniting outrage across the country. Local news outlets report more than 30 arrests, and NewsOne witnessed several. However, in contrast to the violence that overtook Ferguson, Mo. last week when a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown, the New York demonstrations were largely peaceful.
Some protesters had plans to disrupt the nationally-televised tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, though it appeared that demonstrators could not get very close to it due to barricades and a heavy police presence. That did not prevent them from voicing their displeasure at a justice system that they believe continues to fail black people. NewsOne caught up with a group of demonstrators making their way uptown from Union Square in lower Manhattan to the tree lighting, and from there, uptown to Harlem.
Thirty-eight-year-old Douglas Davis from Brooklyn was out among the masses that had gathered at Rockefeller Center after learning of the Eric Garner grand jury decision.
Davis told NewsOne’s Brandon Gillespie, “I got two masters degrees, I’m a professor, I own a house in Brooklyn. I’m married and yet none of that can matter if for whatever reason somebody decides I’m a threat and I don’t have a gun.”
I’m a citizen of the United States of America, this is happening in my country, I am deeply hurt by something that continues to happen to people that look like me.”
He went on to explain why he came to Rockefeller Center to protest the Staten Island grand jury’s decision to not indict Pantaleo for the chokehold death of Garner, “I thought it tone deaf to continue doing what I was doing and not actually give some sort of vent to this.”
Kassaundra Johnson, a 21-year-old Brooklynite, was marching through the streets of Manhattan as crowds chanted “no justice, no peace.” Johnson emphatically said, “Black lives matter. Eric Garner’s life matters. Mike Brown’s life matters and we’re not going to allow this anymore”
Johnson spoke with NewsOne about the grand jury proceedings which many around the nation believe should have resulted in charges being filed against Pantaleo.
“The facts where there, so it really doesn’t make sense that a woman doesn’t have her husband and there is no indictment.”
21-year-old Samantha Lawrence, also from Brooklyn, did not mince her words when talking about her reasons for protesting, saying, “the legal justice system clearly doesn’t support police trying to protect us, so we’re out here trying to get justice for ourselves.”