Underway: New round of protests over police use of force – CNN
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New York (CNN) — The streets in major cities throughout the United States filled again Friday night with protesters calling for an end to what they say is widespread police brutality.
Vocal marchers blocked traffic on a highway in Miami, intersections in Washington and Boston, and Fifth Avenue in New York. In each event, police stood nearby as the peaceful protests made their way down each thoroughfare.
There also were protests in Chicago, Cleveland and Jacksonville, Florida.
In New York, protesters passed out a list of demands to the media in the wake of no indictment in the case of Eric Garner, who died in July after a police officer used a chokehold to subdue him on Staten Island.
The top demands were for all officers involved to be fired, for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate all complaints of excessive force and for the state Legislature to make a chokehold punishable by significant penalties.
Protesters went inside Macy’s iconic Herald Square location and staged a die-in.
In Washington, the demonstrators held several four-minute long silent die-ins to empathize with the family of Michael Brown, a Missouri teenager who lie in the street for four hours after he was fatally shot by a police officer.
One of the D.C. protest organizers said: “I’m not an angry black man. I’m an outraged, hurt black man.”
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Tense moments during protests in Chicago
For a brief time, the demonstrators blocked the path of a fire truck with its emergency lights on. Some protesters said the fire truck was just a ploy to break up the march.
Near Boston, a mass of protesters staged a die-in, several dozen of them blocking a intersection by lying on the road.
As many as 1,000 people were marching Friday evening from Tufts University in Somerville, Massachusetts, near Boston to Harvard Square, according to a police estimate.
No one had been arrested, Cambridge Police spokesman Jeremy Warnick said.
One demonstrator said she needed to bring rampant racism to others’ attention.
“People who don’t already realize what is happening, maybe they will open their minds a little bit or people that do realize and don’t care will realize that people are angry and it’s not OK,” Nicole, who wouldn’t give her last name, told CNN affiliate WHDH when asked why she marches.
Only about 50 people protested in Chicago, but they marched with few breaks for hours.
‘So many people realize this is a problem’
It seemed the disparate groups of New York demonstrators apparently had no organizers.
That didn’t matter to folks like Chuck Helms, a 67-year-old New Jersey resident, clad in a union-issue hard hat and satin Occupy Wall Street jacket.
A sign dangling around his neck said, “Remembering my brothers. BLACK LIVES MATTER.” The sign included photographs of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Akai Gurley — all black men whose controversial deaths made headlines. Gurley was shot dead last month by a police officer in a dark stairwell of a New York housing project.
“It’s a shame that people have to die for us to become focused,” Helms said.
In Chicago, Elizabeth Huston, a paralegal, joined in for the first time.
“So many people realize this is a problem. This is disproportionally affecting black men and women,” she said.
There were other protests in Boston; Chicago; Cleveland; Jacksonville and Miami, Florida; and other U.S. cities.
In Miami, hundreds of protesters jammed traffic on Interstate 195, CNN affiliate WFOR reported. No cars were moving in either direction, the station said.
They again screamed for justice for Eric Garner and others killed, protesters say, without cause by police.
In Cleveland, they protested the death of Tamir, 12, who police say had a lifelike air gun and didn’t comply with an officer’s commands.
“CPD what do you say? How many kids have you killed today,” they yelled.
The protests are a response to the decision Wednesday by a New York grand jury not to charge police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death after his arrest, which was captured on cell-phone video.
They came a week after another decision not to indict by a grand jury in St. Louis County, Missouri, examining the killing of African-American teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.
The demand for change in how law enforcement deals with minorities has been broad, with hundreds of protests involving untold thousands of demonstrators from coast to coast, in towns both large and small.
“It’s happening in every city, every town. It’s happening here in Pittsburgh,” Julia Johnson told CNN affiliate WPXI on Thursday.
In many ways, it appears to be based on the Occupy Wall Street movement, which generated protests in New York and elsewhere in 2011 over inequality, corporate influence and other issues.
The largely leaderless and underground movement is using social media to organize protests, which have morphed from a wide-ranging agenda to a tight focus on the issue of police violence against black men.
What exactly is a chokehold?
Can NYPD retraining work?
NYC officials: Fewer complaints against police
On Friday, New York officials said that complaints against police officers had fallen significantly in the second half of the year, compared with July to November 2013.
A report that tallied complaints said 1,813 were made so far since July 1 of this year, 26% less than the number of complaints filed with the Civilian Complaint Review Board in the same period of the prior year. Excessive force allegations fell by 29%.
The dip followed a slight rise in the first six months of the year, but, overall, allegations have declined in 2014.
“Over the past 11 months, my administration has implemented a series of initiatives and reforms aimed at bridging the gap between the NYPD and the communities they serve,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a written statement. “From ending the overuse of stop and frisk, to dropping the city’s legal challenge to the racial profiling ban, to changing the department’s policy on possession of small amounts of marijuana, we’re steadily bringing crime down while drawing police and community closer together.”
1960s style methods
In many respects, the mostly peaceful protests shared many similarities with the protests of the Civil Rights era — marches, signs, civil disobedience.
One Asian-American protester felt inspired by the 1960s marches, but said she believes that struggle shows change will take a long time. “If you think about the civil rights movement, it took 10 years for anything to happen between the protests and the boycotts of the buses to the actual Civil Rights Act,” she said.
Author and CNN commentator Michaela Angela Davis was marching in a mixed crowd of mostly white students chanting “black lives matter.”
The blocked streets didn’t bother her so much. It’s democracy, she said.
“I feel like we are seeing the American project at work. It is messy; it is difficult.”
CNN’s Ray Sanchez reported from New York, and Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy reported and wrote in Atlanta. Bill Kirkos, Dave Alsup, Ben Brumfield, Jason Carroll, Dana Ford and Greg Botelho and Melanie Whitney contributed to this report.