Protests in New York after officer not charged for chokehold death

Thousands of protesters shouted at police and clogged streets of Manhattan, angered by a New York City grand jury’s decision not to charge a white police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man.

Largely peaceful demonstrations gathered strength and snarled traffic in locations throughout the city, including Grand Central Terminal, Times Square and near Rockefeller Center, after it was announced that no criminal charges would be brought against officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner in July.

However, the United States Justice Department said it was investigating whether Garner’s civil rights had been violated.

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was accused of illegally selling cigarettes on a pavement when Pantaleo put him in a chokehold from behind and tackled him with the help of other officers. Police said he had resisted arrest. The city’s medical examiner previously ruled the death a homicide.

The deadly encounter on Staten Island, New York City’s smallest borough, was captured on video, which quickly spread over the internet and fuelled debate about how US police use force, particularly against minorities.

It was the second grand jury in just over a week to decline to prosecute a white policeman in the death of an unarmed black man. The decision by grand jurors in Ferguson, Missouri, in the death of black teenager Michael Brown sparked a spasm of violence, with businesses burned and looted.

Yesterday’s protests in New York were largely peaceful, with about 30 arrests by mid-evening, although police were clearly showing restraint and allowing demonstrators to express their views.

Marchers snaked through midtown Manhattan streets, chanting and bumping up against throngs of tourists in New York for the holiday season.

One of several “die-ins”, with demonstrators lying down in silent protest, occurred about a block from where the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony was under way.

Police blockaded the street, preventing marchers from interrupting the nationally televised event.

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