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Thousands gather for NYC Christmas tree lighting

December 4, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands celebrated in the heart of Manhattan as they watched the lighting of the 85-foot (26-meter)-tall Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.

Performers at the annual tradition Wednesday night included Mariah Carey and Cyndi Lauper. There also were taped performances from Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.

The tree lighting comes just hours after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer in a black man’s videotaped chokehold death. Mayor Bill de Blasio canceled his planned appearance at the tree lighting to meet with elected officials and activists on Staten Island while citywide protests started to gather steam.

Police presence was heavy as hundreds of protesters stood behind rows of police barricades jamming the sidewalks on Fifth Avenue within sight of the holiday revelers. A block away on Sixth Avenue, police in riot gear faced off with protesters behind metal barricades.

There was heavy police presence as hundreds of protesters gathered behind rows of barricades on Fifth Avenue within sight of the holiday revelers.

The Norway spruce from central Pennsylvania will be on display through Jan. 7.

Seventy-year-old Patricia Donnelly, of Greenwich, Connecticut, was there watching the lighting ceremony for the first time in 20 years.

She was squeezed into a police-barricaded pen with her significant other, 74-year-old, Joseph Matkovich.

He declared the festive scene “a gift.”

Update hourly