WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Thousands of demonstrators marched in Washington, New York and Boston on Saturday to protest killings of unarmed black men by police officers.
Organizers said the marches were among the largest in the recent wave of protests against the killings of black males by police in Ferguson, Missouri, New York, Cleveland and elsewhere.
The protests were mainly peaceful, although police in Boston said they arrested 23 people who tried to block a highway.
One person was arrested in New York after two officers were assaulted by protesters, prompting a condemnation from Mayor Bill de Blasio who said the alleged assault marked “an ugly and unacceptable departure from the demonstrations thus far.”
“Those who reject peaceful protest and provoke violence can expect immediate arrest and prosecution,” warned de Blasio, who has been sharply criticised by the police union for not supporting the department.
Police in Oakland, California, ordered hundreds of demonstrators to disperse on Saturday night after a grocery store was looted.
Decisions by grand juries to return no indictments against the officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York have put police treatment of minorities back on the national agenda.
“We’re going to keep the light on Mike Brown … on all of the victims. The only way you make roaches run is to keep the light on,” said civil rights leader the Rev Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network organized the Washington rally.
Sharpton urged Congress to pass legislation that would allow federal prosecutors to take over cases involving police violence.
Protesters from around the country gathered at Freedom Plaza, a few blocks from the White House, then marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to rally near the white-domed US Capitol.
Marchers, who included many parents with children, chanted “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Protesters carried signs that said “All men are created equal” and “Black lives matter.”
The Washington protest included relatives of Eric Garner and Akai Gurley, killed by New York police; Trayvon Martin, slain by a Florida neighborhood watchman in 2012; Brown and others.
“What a sea of people,” said Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden. “If they don’t see this and make a change, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”