NEW YORK – Protesters staged a “die in” in one city, blocking traffic with their bodies, while mostly peaceful demonstrations continued across the United States against police killings of unarmed black men.
The recent deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City led to “two of the worst weeks” in modern American history, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a black man himself, told NBC on Sunday. He called for a review of police training.
In both cases, grand juries decided not to charge the white police officers involved, leading to days of protests in major cities.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told ABC there has to be “an honest conversation” about the history of racism in the U.S. to help bring together police and the community. He has spoken openly about his concerns for his teenage son. The mayor’s wife is black.
De Blasio declined to answer specifically when pressed about whether he respected the grand jury’s decision last week.
Garner, caught in a chokehold that isn’t authorized by New York police, repeatedly gasped “I can’t breathe!” while he was being arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. The arrest was captured on video.
His widow, Esaw Garner, told NBC that he may have had a history of encounters with police, but he never resisted arrest.
New York City’s police commissioner said an internal investigation into Garner’s death could take “upwards of three to four months.” William Bratton told CBS that interviews of officers had already started.
Protests in New York continued, and in Philadelphia about 200 people staged a silent “die in.” They lay in the street for four minutes and 30 seconds to symbolize the 4 hours and 30 minutes that the body of Brown lay on the street after he was shot by an officer.
In Berkeley, California, some demonstrators smashed windows and walked onto a highway, blocking traffic. There are no immediate reports of arrests or injuries.
Activist Al Sharpton announced plans for a march in Washington, D.C., next Saturday to protest the killings of Garner, Brown and others and to press for change at the federal level.
Politicians have been calling for calm.
“In our country today, there’s too much division, too much polarization – black, white; rich, poor; Democrat, Republican. America does best when we’re united,” Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, said on ABC.
The president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Cornell William Brooks, called for outfitting police with body-worn cameras, something President Barack Obama has recommended, and changing law enforcement policy. “We have to change the model of policing,” Brooks told CBS.