Scenes from Day One of the Eric Garner protests

eric garner protest

Protestors staging a die-in at Times Sqaure. Photos by Camille Lawhead

Last night, in the wake of a Staten Island grand jury clearing NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo of any wrongdoing during an arrest that resulted in the death of Eric Garner, protestors took to the streets to voice their disagreement with the decision. Chanting Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” thousands of marchers moved from Union Square to Rockefeller Plaza, before moving on to shut down a part of the West Side highway.

eric garner protest

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By 5:15pm a small group had already gathered at the north end of Union Square. Activists—some of color, some not—spoke into a megaphone. A lot of the speakers were crying and took pauses between phrases as the crowd encouraged them on.

“I don’t know what more evidence they could come up with,” one student organizer, a white woman, said through tears.

“It’s not just the cops. It’s the media too,” the next speaker continued, this time a young black man. “We are fucking tired. We are fucking tired.”

eric garner protest

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eric garner protest

Chants included “All I want for Christmas is//indict the killer cops,” and “Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell,” a popular call at last week’s Mike Brown protests that likewise brought traffic to a halt.

Former U.S. Marine Robert Nash was standing to the side of the crowd with a printed sign reading “Ferguson is Everywhere, Police Brutality and Murder MUST STOP.” He called out to passersby, “Do you understand you’re standing on stolen land? Do you? This is a genocide.”

Nash participated in last week’s Mike Brown protests, and when asked what if the Garner case affected him differently, he said the significance was obvious. “Were my eyes lying to me? Were your eyes lying?”

eric garner protest

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eric garner protest

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eric garner protest

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eric garner protest

The crowd grew rapidly and around 6pm, police dispersed the protesters, who then started marching along the sidewalk up Park Avenue, with plenty of police following.

At 47th Street and 6th Avenue, police were holding off the crowd that was trying to make its way to Rockefeller Center to disrupt the tree lighting. The standoff was tense, with officer shoving the crowd back and adding barricades as a couple protestors shook them. The intersection was swarmed with what looked like over 100 police officers, with their calls for the crowd to disperse drowned out by the protestors.

eric garner protest

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eric garner protest

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eric garner protest

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eric garner protest

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eric garner protest

Protestors eventually began moving toward Times Square along 47th Street, away from Rockefeller Center, and the area was flooded with overwhelmed tourists, pockets of remaining peaceful protestors, and a handful of not-so-peaceful Times Square Elmos. Protestors moved uptown to Columbus Circle, then continued west to 10th Avenue, where they marched downtown through traffic and over to 12th Ave.

At 12th Avenue around 49th Street, the police had shut down the northbound side of the highway and had cars stationed at 48th Street. Traffic had stopped on the southbound side, where the majority of the marchers were weaving around cars uptown, toward the onramp for the West Side Highway. Marchers held a die-in in front of riot police at the base of the onramp at 59th Street.

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eric garner protest

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eric garner protest

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eric garner protest

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eric garner protest

The crowd moved on to the empty northbound side of the West Side Highway and marched up to the 72nd Street exit. Police were stationed several hundred feet ahead of the exit, so the marchers flooded onto 72nd St., where drivers high-fived the crowd and honked along with chants. They marched down Broadway, often with arms linked, eventually reaching Times Square again and continuing down 7th Avenue, stopping for die-ins at major intersections like 42nd Street and 34th Street.

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eric garner protest

Employees at a Baked By Melissa on 38th Street and 7th Avenue show support for the marchers with a “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” pose

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eric garner protest

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eric garner protest

Follow Camille at @Claw-head