Family of Eric Garner moved by protests throughout city

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The mother and widow of the unarmed black man whose chokehold death sparked protests across the country said Saturday they've been moved by the thousands of peaceful demonstrators who have taken to the streets after a New York City grand jury declined to indict the white officer involved.

Hundreds of protesters staged a "Choke-In" inside Grand Central Terminal on Saturday. The rally remained peaceful even after the group headed out onto city streets with a handful of police officers alongside them.

Protesters in Paris took to the Trocadero, across from the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower, holding up signs and chanting "we can't breathe", "no justice, no peace" and other slogans.

A number of stores in a mall in Houston, Texas closed their doors to foot traffic as a wave of protesters made its way through the shopping center.

"It is just so awesome to see how the crowds are out there," said Eric Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, who said she herself was stuck in her car after protests shut down traffic.

"I was just so proud of that crowd," Carr said. "It just warmed my heart."

Garner's widow, Esaw Garner, said she saw demonstrators from her apartment window and told her son, "Look at all the love that your father's getting."

On Friday night, police said 20 protesters were arrested on disorderly conduct charges in New York Hundreds of protesters marched and many briefly laid down in Macy's flagship store, Grand Central Terminal and an Apple store. They streamed along Fifth Avenue sidewalks and other parts of Manhattan, with signs and chants of "Black lives matter" and "I can't breathe."

Garner's mother and widow spoke Saturday morning at the Rev. Al Sharpton's Harlem headquarters. Sharpton and Garner's family planned to lay a wreath later Saturday at the site of Garner's July 17 death on Staten Island.

Most of the New York protesters arrested for demonstrating had been on the FDR Drive at Delancey Street; 13 men and seven women were charged and released.

Protesters staged a die in at the Apple store in Midtown.

The protesters also headed Grand Central and also to Bryant Park where they staged a "die-in" by the Christmas tree.

Near Times Square, they clashed with police and there were several arrests. The same happened with another group at Columbus Circle.

The local organizer spoke to Eyewitness News on the condition of anonymity. "It's almost like a game of cat and mouse, but the difference is that there are so many people and people are so energized, that we're always going to be a few steps ahead of the city and the police," he said.

Each group of protestors communicated in real time on social media, even on a special app, to announce pop-up protests to like-minded activists.

Charles Wade lives in Texas and organized protests in Ferguson. "We also have people who may work for the police, who may work for the transit system, they may work in mall, and they work with us, because although many of them can't protest, they get it. So they try to help us stay safe," Wade said.

The goal for the NYPD is to keep the groups from managing to link up. That way the cops can keep their numbers small.

One group of protestors came from Grand Central west on 42nd Street Friday night, but cops managed to turn them right at Bryant Park, so they wouldn't meet up with the group that was headed east on 42nd.

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said that 223 protestors were arrested Thursday and that the demonstrations were more aggressive than the previous night. He said the biggest challenge is that the crowds are constantly moving, and the NYPD is responding by deploying more scooters and bikes to keep cops mobile.

Three of those arrested were charged with felonies -- one for reckless endangerment and two for assaulting a police officer. The rest were issued tickets for disorderly conduct.

The officers were injured when protestors threw bottles, trash cans and metal barricades at several locations, including Foley Square, Eighth Avenue and 51st Street, and Madison Avenue and 57th Street.

Officers used pepper spray at several locations during the marches, including at Eighth Avenue and West 14th Street.

Bratton said the protests are causing a drain on the city, pulling cops from outer precincts and away from crime fighting, and if it continues, it will affect basic services. He said there are 35,000 officers at his disposal who have used tremendous restraint, and there has been very little vandalism or outright violence.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten was one of two dozen protesters arrested at West 96th Street and Broadway. Other arrests were at the Staten Island Ferry's Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. Many crossings in and out of the city were briefly shut down during the evening commute as protesters passed.

One officer was treated for chest pains and released.

Police were met with larger crowds Thursday than Wednesday night, with about 7,000 protesters gathering in Foley Square. They broke into four or five groups of 1,000 each and marched in different directions, forcing police to keep up on the ground and in the air.

The groups marched across the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, massed on the West Side Highway, through local streets and eventually ended up in Times Square. They then marched into the late night through Midtown, the Upper East Side and then into Lower Manhattan.

With emotions so high over Garner, education activist Joyce McMillan wondered if anyone was thinking about the bigger picture: how to prevent similar incidents far in advance.

"It starts in the formative age from school years when there's a problem with a child," she said. "We don't wait until they become an adult and they're acting out, and they're selling cigarettes on the corner, and we kill them for it."

Arrests were made Wednesday night at Sixth Avenue as protesters tried to push past police barricades to access to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree; on the Brooklyn Bridge; and on the West Side Highway, where protesters marched and some refused to move. Protesters were also arrested when they blocked intersections in Harlem and Chelsea.

CLICK HERE for more on the grand jury decision

Also on Wednesday, a police officer's personal vehicle caught fire while parked in front of the 77th Precinct station house in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The black Dodge Challenger was badly damaged. Detectives have no arrests or clear motive. The vehicle belongs to an officer but there was no placard in the front window indicating that. Two additional officers have been assigned to keep an eye on the stationhouse perimeter during the detective squad investigation.
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