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Hundreds Protest Eric Garner Decision At Boston Common Tree Lighting

BOSTON (CBS) – Demonstrators marched through Boston and gathered on the Common during the city's annual Christmas Tree lighting Thursday night to protest the Eric Garner case.

Hundreds of protesters carrying signs and chanting "no justice no peace" stood just outside the partitions separating them from the audience at the ceremony.

On Wednesday, a New York City grand jury decided not to charge a white police officer who is seen on video putting Garner, who is black, in a choke hold that led to his death last summer.

WBZ-TV's Jim Armstrong reports

Dozens of people were arrested in Boston November 25 during a protest of a Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict a white Ferguson police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said "very respectful" protests in Boston followed the Ferguson decision and he was prepared for the demonstrations on Thursday.

"All I can control is the Boston Police Department. I'm working with my police department," Walsh said. "We are doing all the things that we need to do to make sure that we're sensitive to the needs of the community."

Audience members at the tree lighting ceremony were upset with the protesters. "Go to the State House during the day, don't do it while they're lighting the tree. I see a million mothers with kids who said, 'screw it. I'm leaving,'" Erin McDonough told WBZ-TV's Katie Brace. She and her family left before the finale.

The protesters moved from the Common to the State House Thursday night. State Police say three people were arrested after the crowd rushed the gates at the State House.

The crowd then began to march towards City Hall and staged a "die-in" on Bowdoin Street.

From there, the protesters moved towards the North End and Charlestown. Along the route, police blocked access to I-93 north and south and the Mass. Pike.

For a short time, another group of protesters managed to get onto the Mass. Pike near Exit 24. State Police say they arrested one protester who blocked traffic at that location.

Everyone who was arrested was charged with disorderly conduct and/or resisting arrest.

State Police Col. Timothy Alben commended troopers and officers for their professionalism and restraint shown during the protests.

"On the whole, protesters behaved appropriately, except for those few who became disorderly and those who walked onto one of our highways -- an unacceptable and dangerous action that will always be met with a swift police response, as it was tonight," Col. Alben said.

Boston Police did not release any information about arrests they made Thursday night.

WBZ-TV's Jim Smith reports

On Thursday afternoon over 100 Emerson College students staged a walkout and marched around the city in protest of the Ferguson and Staten Island grand jury decisions.

The protest marched through the streets near Boston Common and continued to the State House, onto Newbury Street and other locations.

Chokehold Protest
Protesters gathered outside the State House earlier in December. (Bernice Corpuz/WBZ)

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said Thursday there would be extra police officers at the tree lighting ceremony as a precaution.

"I know people are upset, but all I ask is that they respect people's property and nobody gets hurt," Evans told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

On Thursday afternoon Evans also joined WBZ-TV's Jon Keller, and said he planned to work with protesters to keep the atmosphere peaceful.

"If it turns out they want to shut down streets I'd like to at least warn the motorists of the city if they're traveling on a night like tonight, expect some delays," said Evans.

"We're going to try to do our best to accommodate the protest and keep everyone safe and that's both those who are out walking and those in their motor vehicles."

Nearly 7,000 people claimed they would attend the protest on the #EnoughIsEnough Facebook page.


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