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Family of man in chokehold death praise protesters

December 7, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — The mother and widow of an unarmed black man whose videotaped police chokehold death sparked protests across the U.S. said Saturday they’ve been moved by the thousands of peaceful demonstrators who have taken to the streets after a New York City grand jury declined to indict the white officer involved.

“It is just so awesome to see how the crowds are out there,” said Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, who added that she ended up stuck in her car after protests shut down traffic.

“I was just so proud of that crowd,” Carr said. “It just warmed my heart.”

Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, said she saw demonstrators from her apartment window and told her son, “Look at all the love that your father’s getting.”

Demonstrators around the country have staged die-ins, blocked roadways and marched into stores since the grand jury’s decision Wednesday not to indict the white police officer in the chokehold death of Garner.

Nationwide, tensions were already running high because of a grand jury’s decision last week to not indict a white officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, in Ferguson, Missouri.

Garner’s relatives spoke Saturday morning at the Harlem headquarters of the Rev. Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights activist. Later Saturday, they joined Sharpton as he laid a wreath at the site in the New York City borough of Staten Island where Garner died July 17 in a confrontation that started when police tried to arrest him for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

An amateur video seen by millions showed Garner gasping, “I can’t breathe” during the fatal encounter.

“All we’re concerned about is justice from the police,” said Garner’s stepfather, Benjamin Carr, who wore a T-shirt with the words, “Enough is enough.”

Protests continued in New York City for a fourth day with several dozen people lying down on the floor of Grand Central Terminal. There were no reports of arrests.

On Friday night, 20 protesters were arrested on disorderly conduct charges in New York, police said. Hundreds of demonstrators marched and many briefly laid down in Macy’s flagship store, Grand Central and an Apple store. They streamed along Fifth Avenue sidewalks and other parts of Manhattan, with signs and chants of “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe.”

In Oakland, California, hundreds of protesters briefly blocked Interstate 880, a major freeway, on Friday night. There were no immediate reports of any arrests or injuries.

Protests have also been held in Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami and dozens of other cities.

Sharpton announced plans this week for a march in Washington, D.C., next Saturday to protest the police killings of Garner, Brown and others and to press for change at the federal level.

Also Saturday, friends and family members recited poems and said prayers at a funeral service in Brooklyn for a black man who was shot by police in a New York City housing project on Nov. 20.

Police say Officer Peter Liang was patrolling a pitch-dark stairwell when 28-year-old Akai Gurley and his girlfriend opened a door into the stairway.

Police have said Liang apparently fired by accident, killing Gurley. Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said Friday that he would present the case to a grand jury.

An aunt of Gurley’s, Janice Asiedu, told TV station New York 1 that she wants “justice to be served.”

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