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Protests erupt over police killing of Eric Garner

Protesters held die-ins, blocked traffic and tried to stop the Rockefeller Center tree lighting as they chanted: 'I can't breathe.'

By Mary Papenfuss
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Protests erupt over police killing of Eric Garner
A Protester is arrested by police on Sixth Avenue following a decision by a grand jury not to indict an NYPD officer involved in the apparent chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City on December 3, 2014. Garner, a 43 year old father of six, died in July after police officers attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes in the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island. UPI/John Angelillo | License Photo

NEW YORK, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Protests erupted on both coasts and in the heartland Wednesday night after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of father-of-six Eric Garner.

At least 30 people were arrested in New York City after mostly peaceful demonstrators marched through several neighborhoods chanting: "This stops today" and "I can't breathe," which a panicky Garner, 43, said shortly before his death July 17.

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One group of protesters in the early evening targeted the lighting ceremony of the mammoth tree at Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan, chanting: "No justice, no tree." A Twitter hashtag, #ShutitDown, had called on protesters to stop the event. Demonstrators attempted to push through a barricade around a portion of the center, but police held them at bay.

Elsewhere in midtown some protesters held a "die-in" at Grand Central Terminal and protesters stopped traffic along the West Side Highway.

Hundreds of demonstrators also gathered in Missouri, Washington, D.C., Los Angles, Oakland and San Francisco.

Police Officer Dennis Pantaleo told the grand jury he hadn't intended to choke Garner, and that he considered his actions a takedown maneuver that he didn't expect would risk Garner's life. He said in a statement that he "felt very bad about the death of Mr. Garner."

Garner's widow, Esaw Garner, said she didn't accept the apology.

"Hell, no," she said. "The time for remorse for the death of my husband was when he was yelling to breathe."

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