NEW YORK -- Thousands of protesters stormed New York City streets Monday night, shutting down at least three bridges and snarling traffic in response to a grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August.
Hordes of New Yorkers marched from Union Square to Times Square, up FDR Drive and across the Triboro, Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, shouting chants of "You say get back, we say fight back!" and "Whose streets? Our streets!" By 1:30 Tuesday morning, authorities had shut down all three bridges:
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In Times Square, a protester was arrested after splattering NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton with fake blood. There were a number of other arrests, and other officers suffered minor injuries, reports said.
The decision not to indict Wilson resonated with many New Yorkers who were also angry about the recent police killing of Akai Gurley, an unarmed 28-year-old who was shot to death last Friday by a rookie NYPD officer in the stairwell of a Brooklyn public housing project. On Tuesday, a number of protesters carried signs bearing Gurley's photograph alongside calls to "end police terrorism from NYC to Ferguson."
Other demonstrators invoked the image of Eric Garner, the Staten Island father who was also unarmed when he died in a police chokehold last July after being arrested for illegally selling cigarettes.
Protesters in Union Square thought the Ferguson decision represented part of a larger problem and said they had no plans to stop demonstrating anytime soon. "Innocent people are routinely shot, and these people are young, black and male," Michael Chou, 24, told The Huffington Post. "I will protest as long as it's needed to make a point about that."
Anta Toure, 19, agreed. "If the cops protected the people, like they're supposed to, then Michael Brown would still be alive," she said. "I won't stop protesting until I see some sort of change. I'll protest at my university, at my job, wherever I see some space."
A few hours before the grand jury decision Monday night, another group of protesters gathered outside NYU Law School to call for Bratton's resignation. They said the commissioner's "broken windows" policing -- the strategy of aggressively targeting lesser crimes as a means of deterring more serious crimes -- unfairly targets minorities and leads to the deaths of unarmed black men like Gurley and Garner.
"The lives of people of color, young black men of color, young women of color, poor people -- they are not respected and valued by the NYPD," said Josmar Truillo, of New Yorkers Against Bratton. He pointed to the police-involved deaths in 1994 of Nicholas Heyward Jr. and Anthony Baez as proof that nothing has changed over the last 20 years. Heyward, an unarmed black teenager, was killed in a public housing project stairwell, just like Gurley. Baez died after being put into a chokehold, just like Garner.
"Connecting the dots between Brooklyn, Staten island and Ferguson is exactly what the mayor of this city does not want us to do and that's something we must make sure happens," Trujillo said, noting that Mayor Bill de Blasio only last week said that Gurley's death appeared to be an "accident," and shouldn't be compared to other instances of alleged police brutality.
During a press conference Monday evening, the Rev. Al Sharpton discussed Gurley's and Garner's killings as they related to the Ferguson grand jury's failure to indict Wilson. “Let it be clear. We are dealing with the same attitudes in Ferguson right here in the city," Sharpton said from his office in New York, where he was joined by Garner's family. “It was expected, but still an absolute blow to those of us that wanted to see a fair and open trial.”
More On Ferguson From HuffPost:
Darren Wilson Not Indicted | Photos Of Darren Wilson's Injuries Released | Shooting Witness Admitted Racism In Journal | Darren Wilson's Statement Doesn't Mention Michael Brown | Reactions To Ferguson Decision | Protesters' Open Letter | Prosecutor Gives Bizarre Press Conference | Obama Address Ferguson Decision | Notable Black Figures React | Politicians React | Jury Witness: 'By The Time I Saw His Hands In The Air, He Got Shot' | Al Sharpton Calls Decision 'Expected, But Still An Absolute Blow' | Ferguson Erupts In Protest | Thousands Protest Nationwide |