, NEW YORK, Dec 7 – New Yorkers took to the streets Saturday in further protests to denounce a spate of killings of unarmed black men by white police officers as relatives buried a 28 year old father of one.
Despite heavy rain, dozens of demonstrators gathered in Times Square and later in Union Square, where the crowd huddled under umbrellas and shouted “I can’t breathe” egged on by cries of “louder, louder.”
“I can’t breathe” were the final words gasped repeatedly by Eric Garner, a 43 year old father of six who died in July after a police chokehold that was caught on amateur video footage.
A coroner’s report ruled Garner’s death a “homicide” after police held him in a chokehold.
A grand jury’s decision on Wednesday not to indict the white officer responsible has now triggered four consecutive nights of protests in New York and other major cities across the United States, mobilizing thousands.
But so far, Saturday’s protests were far fewer and more limited than the large turnouts earlier in the week.
Another protest was scheduled later in the evening in Brooklyn.
There were also small rallies held in the US cities of Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Tampa Bay.
In the morning, civil rights activist Al Sharpton’s National Action Network held an event in Harlem attended by actor Spike Lee.
On Friday, demonstrators staged “die-ins,” by lying on the ground at Columbia University, Grand Central Station and after pouring into Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square and the Apple store on Fifth Avenue.
Another grand jury decision not to prosecute the white officer who shot dead unarmed 18 year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9 also triggered riots as well as peaceful protests.
Friends and relatives on Saturday attended the funeral of Akai Gurley, who was shot dead when a police officer opened fire in a dark staircase at a Brooklyn apartment building as he walked with his girlfriend late on November 20.
Dozens of mourners paid their respects at the Brown Memorial Baptist Church, where Gurley’s gray coffin was covered in a huge spray of red and white flowers.
The 28 year old, whose mother lived in Florida, had been planning a surprise Thanksgiving trip to introduce her to his young daughter when he was killed.
Activist Kevin Powell, who delivered the eulogy, thanked Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city of New York for paying for the funeral but issued a passionate rallying cry for change and justice.
“Akai was innocent, innocent, innocent,” he told the mourners.
“This is modern day lynchings, over and over again. Akai Gurley was simply the latest victim of this,” he said, calling for homicide charges to be brought against his killer.