In recent weeks, throngs have taken to the streets nationwide after grand juries decided not to indict white police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in Missouri and New York City, respectively.
Saturday will culminate what organizers are calling a “Week of Outrage,” with large demonstrations planned in major cities.
“Our message is very simple,” Carl Dix said in a statement on the group’s website. “Since the ‘normal routine’ of America has always included murder of black and Latino people by law enforcement, this week, that ‘normal routine must be disrupted.'”
The protests started Friday at Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and outside City Hall in St. Louis, Missouri.
A St. Louis police officer will be disciplined because he showed up at City Hall with a “Wilson” badge on his right arm, police spokesman Schron Jackson said. The badge apparently referred to Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown. Jackson said the badge violated a department rule about prohibited insignia.
Jeff Roorda of the St. Louis Police Officers Association fired back, saying, “The U.S. Department of Justice has consistently described demonstrations where police officers were shot at and police had Molotov cocktails thrown at them as constitutional, protected free speech, but police officers are apparently not allowed to exercise their constitutional rights to express their support for a fellow police officer exonerated of wrong doing.”
On Saturday afternoon, protesters in major cities, including New York City and Washington D.C., plan marches.
Eric Garner Jr., the son of the man who died after a New York police officer held him in what appeared to be a chokehold, said he was proud of the protests.
“It’s amazing how everybody (is) doing this. My father and I appreciate it,” the son told CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”
Some peaceful protests across the country this week have been marred by bouts of violence and crowds that disrupted thousands of motorists by shutting down freeways.
But despite those instances, protests have continued to draw some notable names.
More join chorus for change
In Washington, minority congressional staffers walked off their jobs and gathered on the steps of the Capitol on Thursday with their hands raised to show support for the families of Brown and Garner.
Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, who fought to end segregation and racial discrimination in the South in the 1960s, also joined the group.
And the support is not limited to political figures.
Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James is one of the big names speaking out.
Before the team faced the Brooklyn Nets on the basketball court Monday night, James wore a T-shirt that said “I can’t breathe” — Eric Garner’s last words, which have become a rallying cry for protesters.
“It was a message to the family. I’m sorry for their loss,” the four-time league MVP said.
“As a society, we know we need to get better, but it’s not going to be done in one day. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Obama weighs in
President Barack Obama spoke about the future of race relations in America to a network that reaches a predominantly young African-American audience.
“What I told the young people who I met with — we’re going to have more conversations over the coming months — is, ‘This isn’t something that is going to be solved overnight,’ Obama said on BET. ” ‘This is something that is deeply rooted in our society. It’s deeply rooted in our history.’ ”
In his interview, the President said African-American youths need to be both persistent and patient in order to make progress on the issue of racial tensions in America.
Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who a New York grand jury decided not to indict in Garner’s death, spoke with internal affairs investigators this week.
“He indicated he never used a chokehold,” said Stuart London, his attorney. “He used a takedown technique he was taught in the academy. He said he never exerted any pressure on the windpipe and never intended to injure Mr. Garner.”
In Missouri, Officer Darren Wilson, who maintains he shot Brown in August out of fear for his life, resigned from the Ferguson Police Department last month.
By Ralph Ellis, Faith Karimi and Catherine E. Shoichet