Hundreds of protesters staged a “die-in” inside a major west London shopping mall on Wednesday in solidarity with demonstrations in the United States following a Staten Island grand jury decision not to indict a white officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. Police reportedly arrested 76 people who took part in the protests at the Westfield London mall.
Authorities reportedly estimated that 600 people gathered for the “die-in” protests, which began peacefully until a group assaulted security staff and damaged property, BBC reported. The event was reportedly organized by campaign group London Black Revs, which staged a protest last month outside the U.S. Embassy in London condemning a grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Protesters in London reportedly chanted Garner’s last words, “I can't breathe,” as they blocked streets and stormed inside the mall on Wednesday evening.
Demonstrators were reportedly asked to move out of the mall where a peaceful protest also took place. According to Scotland Yard, the request was peacefully complied with, but later, a group tried to gain access to the mall, forcing authorities to make arrests, BBC reported. Protesters were reportedly using tactics "including a containment for the purpose of preventing violence and effecting arrests,” the Metropolitan Police reportedly said.
"We will always work with those that wish to demonstrate lawfully - as the majority of protesters did yesterday,” an officer told BBC. "However, we will not tolerate the small minority that offer violence or commit other criminal acts, such as that witnessed outside Westfield."
Police reportedly said that the arrests were made on suspicion of public order offenses and assault.
“People were obviously very angry about the situation in the US, because it’s reached a critical point. But it’s also a problem here in the UK -- it’s an international problem which needs to be addressed,” a protester told The Guardian.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., protests continued for a fifth night on Wednesday in California, forcing a shutdown of the Oakland City Center BART station, a local news report said. The Ashby BART station in Berkeley was also reportedly closed during the protest. Nearly 150 protesters marched from Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, and later entered the University of California campus, forcing the closure of an event conducted by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
Across the U.S., medical students staged “die-in” protests at nearly 70 locations, including in Chicago, Atlanta and Boston on Wednesday evening. Activists in New York demanded that the city take action after a grand jury declined to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death. The activist group, which is calling itself NY Justice League, has urged authorities to name a special prosecutor to investigate Garner's case, and has also called for proper laws to keep a check over the use of excessive force by police, Reuters reported.