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Protests Spread In New York And Beyond Over Eric Garner Case

As word spread of a grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Staten Island man Eric Garner, so did word of planned protests in New York and other cities. And while a main target was Wednesday night's lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, it seems that many protesters were kept away.

The reaction was propelled by frustration that officer Daniel Pantaleo would not face charges over Garner's death, despite using a chokehold to subdue him in an encounter that was captured on video. A medical examiner had ruled the case a homicide in August.

Many people commenting on the case used the hashtag #ICantBreathe — a statement Garner made repeatedly as several officers apprehended him.

To prevent protesters from disrupting the Rockefeller Center tree lighting, police reportedly boosted their patrols and blocked some streets to all pedestrians.

Update, 10:30 p.m. ET: Protesters in New York clogged up a key bridge and highway, the New York Times reported. New York police chief William Bratton told CNN that about 30 protesters were arrested Wednesday night, with more arrests likely to come.

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Protests were quickly organized via Twitter, where the hashtag ShutItDown became a rallying point. Other plans were coordinated via tags like DieIn — which resulted in dozens of people lying prone in Grand Central Station.

Both tags soon spread to other cities, including Los Angeles and Oakland — and Clayton, Mo., where a St. Louis County grand jury recently decided not to indict a police officer over the death of Michael Brown.

This afternoon, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio noted that protesters have also rallied around the statement "Black lives matter."

"It's a phrase that should never have to be said," the mayor said. "It should be self-evident."

This was the scene in Pittsburgh:

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.