Large groups of demonstrators marched up from Times Square to Rockefeller Center, where the scene was set for a festive televised Christmas-tree lighting Wednesday evening, to protest the news that a Staten Island grand jury would not charge the white New York City police officer accused of choking Eric Garner and causing his death.
The grand jury, made up of 14 white and nine "not white" members, decided that no charges would be filed against Daniel Pantaleo, the only officer facing a possible indictment. The other officers were given immunity for their testimony, according to the New York Times. Pantaleo testified on Nov. 21 for more than two hours, the Times reported.
According to NBC News, some protesters also converged on the "main concourse of Grand Central Terminal" and staged die-ins.
"I'm outraged," John Grauwiler, 44, told NBC News. "As a man of color, I'm concerned about the implications of this for me and my friends. I thought the turnout would be different, but this is a wake-up call."
The news comes only a week after then-police Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted for killing unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., making Garner's the second recent case of an unarmed black man dying at the hands of police with no grand jury indictment.
Both Garner and Brown became the subjects of a nationwide discussion of police brutality in relation to men of color.
New York City police officers, believing that Garner, 43, had been selling loose cigarettes, approached him and a struggle ensued. Garner was choked until his lifeless body lay on the sidewalk. The video of the July 17 incident sparked outrage and protest throughout the city. Garner can be heard saying, "I can't breathe" on the video.
According to NBC News, protesters chanted, "I can't breathe" as they gathered in Times Square. Protesters also held up their hands, a nod to the Ferguson protesters who adopted the "Hands up, don't shoot" reference after several witnesses claimed that Brown's hands were raised in surrender when he was shot. Some held signs that read, "Black Lives Matter," while others yelled, "NYPD, KKK, how many kids did you kill today?" NBC reports.
"I grew up in the '60s and '70s; we fought to have justice, and 40 years later we still don't have justice in this country," 65-year-old protester Walter Cooper told NBC News. "I'm very frustrated and upset."
Others told the news station that they didn't know what else was needed in order for the jury to indict. "A murderer was caught on camera, and for whatever reason they [the grand jury] decided to let a murderer go free, and this keeps happening," protester Adina Bloom, 25, said. "I don't understand how much more evidence one has to present to face consequences. What more could we have done to show the people of the court a murder occurred?"