MEMBERS ONLY: Powerful Photos Of New York City's Eric Garner Protests

New York erupted into mass demonstrations shortly after a Staten Island grand jury refused to indict in the killing of Eric Garner.
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New York erupted into mass demonstrations shortly after a Staten Island grand jury refused to indict in the killing of Eric Garner.
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On Wednesday, a grand jury returned with the decision not to indict the police officer responsible for choking Staten Island resident Eric Garner to death on video. Soon thereafter, New York City exploded in protest.

The Daily Banter has plenty of insightfulcoverage of the issues surrounding Garner's case, so I'll spare you the details for another article. Instead, I'll let the photos I took of thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets speak for themselves.

Protesters planned to show up at the Rockefeller Plaza tree-lighting ceremony and disrupt the musical acts on live TV. It's not a surprise, then, that the entire area was on even tighter lockdown than already would have been put in place to manage crowds attempting to reach the festivities. As I arrived near the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, dozens of cop cars had already converged. A network of barricades and lane closures made it more or less impossible to get close to Rockefeller Plaza, as it seems to have for the protesters.

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This agitated officer told me there was an "emergency situation," but refused to clarify what it was. He told me there was "zero chance" of reaching the protests. Another officer told some tourists that the amount of roadblocks was totally normal, but then told me he wasn't allowed to discuss the emergency with me unless I had a city-issued press pass.

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However, the blocks surrounding Rockefeller Plaza were full of demonstators decrying police brutality and the NYPD's pattern of indiscriminate force against the city's black population.

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Meanwhile, some cops were directing pedestrian traffic.

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These NYPD auxiliaries are volunteer officers assigned to duties like crowd control. Dozens of them could be seen converging on the area around Rockefeller Plaza.

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The police presence was no joke, and the protesters were vastly outnumbered by people attempting to enter the ceremony.

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Plenty, however, were outside.

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Soon, the protesters began marching towards the Hudson River Parkway onramp at 49th St.,where they were confronted by phalanxes of police wearing riot armor, helicopters, and an entire line of NYPD motorcycles.

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Protesters chanted "NYPD! Can't breathe!"and "How do you spell racist? NYPD!" in a tense standoff with what looked like a hundred or more officers, while sirens blared and a helicopter pointed searchlights at the crowd. Officers drew batons and brought out rope ties typically used in mass arrests, as well as demanded members of the crowd clear the streets. Nonetheless, a sizable crowd of several hundred people moved up the parkway blocking off traffic.

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(Photo credit: Nina Ippolito)

Here's some more shots of the protesters and police units present. When a CNN news crew arrived, the protesters chanted "Fuck CNN!" repeatedly while their reporter attempted to film.

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A large group of activists staged a brief sit-in on the road, refusing to vacate.

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Eventually, though, the group was firmly split between those heading up the highway and the ones that remained behind (a group that seemed to be at least 50% media). Cops formed a blockade to prevent others from following them, while at least 20 windowless police vans and unmarked police vehicles drove after the group on the highway.

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Later, thousands of protesters marched south through traffic on 8th Ave., followed by a group of tired-looking officers. Traffic was completely shut down for blocks and the protest group marched straight through Times Square with little intervention from the authorities.

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The American flag sign in Times Square was completely dominated by protesters and reporters. No one was arrested in Times Square at that stage of the demonstrations.

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The group paused for another sit-in. Then, it kept marching south towards the Financial District.

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(Photo credit: Nina Ippolito)

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(Photo credit: Nina Ippolito)

Many people joined them. Some, like these Baked by Melissa employees, threw their hands up in solidarity as the protesters chanted, "Hands up, don't shoot!" Motorists stuck in their cars (many of them non-white taxi or truck drivers) honked in solidarity. One woman yelled "No justice!" from her apartment, getting cries of "No peace!" in return.

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(Photo credit: Nina Ippolito)

Later, hundreds of protesters blocked side streets and pointed signs at the drivers. The march continued past West 4th St., but had somewhat dwindled by then.

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According to news reports, the impromptu demonstrations succeeded in shutting down the Lincoln Tunnel, Columbus Circle, the Brooklyn Bridge and even Grand Central Station. Here's a photo of what it looked like inside.

Overall, the number of demonstrators was probably in the thousands. All of them were committed and angry, spurred on by the words of Eric Garner's wife Esaw, who told reporters "hell no" when asked if she accepted the officer who killed her husband's apology.

Elsewhere online, activists circulated this chilling transcript of Eric Garner's last words.

Those aren't the words of a dangerous criminal. Those are the words of a helpless man who knew he was dying. Those are the words of someone who realized he was dying.

Last night, protesters the city over proved that they were willing to stand up for Garner, even if it ultimately came too late. Now the Department of Justice is investigating whether the NYPD violated his rights. With Commissioner Bill Bratton clearly unwilling to commit to any kind of meaningful reform of his department, it might be the last chance for justice after Garner's death. More protests are scheduled for Thursday night and beyond, which will hopefully keep the public eye on the NYPD and other agencies operating with total disregard for the civil rights of minorities.

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