More than 25,000 people marched through Manhattan on Saturday, police officials said, in the largest protest in New York City since a grand jury declined this month to indict an officer in the death of an unarmed black man on Staten Island.
Just before 2 p.m. they began spilling out of Washington Square Park, and after an hour and a half, the park still had not emptied. Walking north toward 34th Street, the protesters filled the cold air by chanting “I can’t breathe,” the last words of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man, who died from a chokehold after an officer dragged him to the ground on a hot day in July.
The protest, which at times stretched for over a mile, highlighted growing anger nationwide over recent police deaths, including that of Mr. Garner, 43, who officers accused of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
Though the march was largely peaceful, after it had run its scheduled course, some demonstrators continued on over the Brooklyn Bridge, where two officers were assaulted, the police said. They were recovering in the hospital. The police also said they found a bag of hammers on the bridge.
As of late Saturday, the police said they had not made any arrests. In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the attacks on the officers an “ugly and unacceptable departure from the demonstrations thus far.”
“Those who reject peaceful protest and provoke violence can expect immediate arrest and prosecution,” he added. “Such acts are beneath the dignity of New York City, they undermine the very values these protests are working to advance, and they simply will not be tolerated.”
The march was led by the families of a number of unarmed black men who died at the hands of police officers, including Ramarley Graham and Sean Bell, who were both killed in the city. But protesters insisted that the movement was as much about those deaths as it was about the daily indignity of being confronted by the police for, they said, little to no reason.
Denise Mayer, 64, of Montclair, N.J., said she had marched in protests over the Vietnam War, but that this movement was different. “This is more of an everyday frustration that the violence seems to be escalating,” she said, holding a poster of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
They moved through the streets, pushing children in strollers, waving black liberation flags and carrying signs. They also chanted “hands up, don’t shoot,” the rallying cry in Ferguson, Mo., over the police shooting death in August of another unarmed black man, Michael Brown, 18.
“A young black man in America shouldn’t be scared to interact with the police or talk with the police,” another protester, Jelanie Deshong, 22, said.
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SOURCE: The New York Times
Benjamin Mueller and Ashley Southall