Thousands of protesters gathered in major U.S. cities for a second night Thursday to rally against recent grand jury decisions against indicting white police officers in the deaths of black men, blocking major highways in New York City and Chicago, and staging “die-ins” in public areas.
The demonstrations came the same day New York’s mayor announced a citywide police retraining program, after a grand jury decided Wednesday not to indict a white NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner.
In New York City, 200 people were arrested as protestors streamed onto the Brooklyn Bridge and shut down parts of the West Side Highway. Chicago demonstrators halted traffic on the Dan Ryan Expressway, while in Washington D.C. protestors attempted to upstage the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony near the White House with a “die-in” – lying in the street as if they had been shot.
Garner died in July after officer Daniel Pantaleo subdued him with a chokehold, an aggressive move that is banned by the New York Police Department. Pantaleo has reportedly denied using an illegal maneuver.
Wednesday’s grand jury announcement, which came just over a week after a similar outcome in the Ferguson, Mo., case involving teenager Michael Brown, sparked an immediate outcry and led a number of activists and elected officials to demand a federal investigation.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday that the Justice Department had opened a civil rights inquiry into the incident, which was caught on video and later went viral.
As footage of the rallies filled news segments Thursday evening, with many protesters chanting Garner’s final words “I can’t breathe,” his mother Gwen Carr opened up about her reaction to the grand jury’s decision not to indict Pantaleo.
“I couldn’t believe that they came back and didn’t come back with probable cause to bring this case to trial. I couldn’t even answer a phone call,” she told CNN. “I just wonder… what video was they watching? Because obviously it wasn’t the one the whole world was watching.”
Carr said she does not accept Pantaleo’s apology. “He was choking him and my son was begging for his life. That was the time for the apology. He should have got up off of him and let him breathe… I would have still had my son,” she added. “He has no regard for human life if this is the way he treats suspects.”
She hopes that Pantaleo will still face charges in federal court.