PITTSBURGH - Protesters in Pittsburgh staged more “die-ins” Thursday in reaction to a grand jury’s decision not to indict a New York City police officer in the videotaped chokehold death of an unarmed man.
Organizers began a march downtown at 1 p.m. at the August Wilson Center with additional protests planned in Oakland Friday and Ross Park Mall Saturday. Protesters chanted, “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” and stopped several times to hold "die-ins" in the street.
“We want people to know we not only care about the Garner family and the lack of justice they received, but (also) for every victim of police brutality,” said protester Julie Johnson.
Onlookers watched the afternoon exhibition, some of them not certain of its impact on the overall goal of ending police brutality.
“I don't agree with them blocking streets. I saw a woman who was trying to get to work, trying to get to Children's Hospital,” said Nick Burns.
Still others say it’s a start, a dramatic way to call attention to racism and injustice. The night before, nearly 100 people took the streets in reaction to the ruling. A crowd of approximately 75 people demonstrating against police brutality met at Schenley Plaza in Oakland around 7 p.m. and marched through the streets, disrupting traffic on Forbes and Fifth avenues.
"We want justice - that's all we want we want, justice," said protester Alanah Owens.
Drivers on Forbes Avenue had nowhere to go during the demonstration, and people waiting for buses didn't know when their rides would get past the crowd.
The final “die-in,” in which the protesters lay on the ground for several minutes, occurred beside Soldiers and Sailors Hall and held up traffic for 45 minutes.
While the grand jury didn’t act in the case, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday night that the Justice Department will conduct a federal investigation into the death of Eric Garner. The investigation will look for potential civil rights investigations in the July 17 death of Garner, 43, who was confronted by the officer on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A video shot by an onlooker showed Garner telling officers to leave him alone as they tried to arrest him, and one then responded by wrapping his arm around Garner's neck in what appeared to be a chokehold.
Calling the death a "tragedy," Holder said it was one of "several recent incidents that have tested the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve and protect." The death occurred weeks before the deadly police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., a case also under investigation by the Justice Department and in which a local grand jury last week also cleared an officer of wrongdoing. The cases together have contributed to a national discussion about the use of excessive force by police and their treatment of minorities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.