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Sit-ins, die-ins, blockades in American cities not just about Eric Garner

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(CNN) — They’re preparing the signs. Lining up the locations. Getting ready to shut down traffic once again.

Protests in the growing movement against police brutality are on tap in dozens of communities across the nation on Friday, with more planned over the weekend.

The third day of demonstrations appeared to begin with two small protests that sprang up in Chicago.

On Thursday, marchers in Dallas, Boston, Chicago and Manhattan screamed for justice for Eric Garner and others killed, protesters say, without cause by police.

The protests erupted in response to the decision Wednesday by a New York grand jury not to charge police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death after his arrest, which was captured on cell-phone video.

They came a week after another decision not to indict by a grand jury in St. Louis County, Missouri, examining the killing of African-American teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.

In New York, protesters angry over the Garner decision blocked the Holland Tunnel connecting Manhattan with New Jersey, stopped traffic on Broadway and clogged West Side Highway in Manhattan near 10th Street, CNN affiliate WABC reported.

“I’m out here because the system has failed us too many times,” Courtney Wicker, a New York protester, told CNN affiliate NY1. “It makes me feel like there’s no justice.”

Dozens sat down in an intersection, blocking traffic. Others patiently waited as police almost gently put them in plastic handcuffs and walked them off the streets.

In New York, 219 people were arrested. Police in Dallas and Massachusetts reported a handful of arrests.

Among the motorists stuck in New York protest traffic was Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr. “I was so thrilled, so thrilled, even to be held up in traffic,” she said on CNN’s “New Day.”

“They were standing for my son. I thank them so very much,” she said.

Growing movement

The demand for change in how law enforcement deals with minorities has been broad, with hundreds of protests involving untold thousands of demonstrators from coast to coast, in towns both large and small.

“It’s happening in every city, every town. It’s happening here in Pittsburgh,” Julia Johnson told CNN affiliate WPXI.

In many ways, it appears to be based on the Occupy Wall Street movement, which generated protests in New York and elsewhere in 2011 over inequality, corporate influence and other issues.

The largely leaderless and underground movement is using social media to organize protests, which have morphed from a wide-ranging agenda to a tight focus on the issue of police violence against black men.

In New York, protest signs reading “Racism kills” and “The whole damn system is guilty as hell,” told of protesters’ frustrations.

A young white marcher said “the criminalization of black youth in America needs to end.”

“It’s time that we say we’re fed up and this needs to change,” the marcher said.

The show of solidarity touched Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster, who is African-American. He was feeling down after the Staten Island grand jury declined to press charges in the Garner case.

“After the decision, I think some of us were so fallen,” he said, making a gesture of his chest caving in. “But then, when you see this diverse group of people sort of gathering together and saying this is fundamentally unfair and taking to the streets, it sort of reconfirms our faith in our society, in our values,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper late Thursday.

NYC officials: Fewer complaints against police

On Friday, New York officials said that complaints against police officers had fallen significantly in the second half of the year, compared with July to November 2013.

A report that tallied complaints said 1,813 were made so far since July 1 of this year, 26% less than the number of complaints filed with the Civilian Complaint Review Board in the same period of the prior year. Excessive force allegations fell by 29%.

The dip followed a slight rise in the first six months of the year, but, overall, allegations have declined in 2014.

“Over the past 11 months, my administration has implemented a series of initiatives and reforms aimed at bridging the gap between the NYPD and the communities they serve,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a written statement. “From ending the overuse of stop and frisk, to dropping the city’s legal challenge to the racial profiling ban, to changing the department’s policy on possession of small amounts of marijuana, we’re steadily bringing crime down while drawing police and community closer together.”

Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Oakland

In Boston, a diverse crowd turned the annual Christmas tree lighting into its protest late Thursday.

“Black lives matter!” protesters chanted. “We can’t breathe!”

They stopped a train line and blocked nearby highways.

In Oakland, California, protesters marched to the Fruitvale rail station, where on New Year’s Day 2009, a white officer killed Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old unarmed black man.

In Chicago, a small group of protesters stood in tense stalemate with police, who tried to keep them from blocking a street.

Protesters stopped a line of train service, and they blocked the Massachusetts Turnpike and Interstate 93. State troopers went in to escort them out. Authorities detained several people, CNN affiliate WCVB reported.

Video from Dallas showed a few dozen protesters blocking an interstate late Thursday. They were quickly surrounded by squad cars, some were arrested.

1960s style methods

In many respects, the mostly peaceful protests shared many similarities with the protests of the Civil Rights era — marches, signs, civil disobedience.

One Asian-American protester felt inspired by the 1960s marches, but said she believes that struggle shows change will take a long time.

“If you think about the civil rights movement, it took 10 years for anything to happen between the protests and the boycotts of the buses to the actual Civil Rights Act,” she said.

Author and CNN commentator Michaela Angela Davis was marching in a mixed crowd of mostly white students chanting “black lives matter.”

The blocked streets didn’t bother her so much. It’s democracy, she said.

“I feel like we are seeing the American project at work. It is messy; it is difficult.”

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