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New York erupts as jury fails to indict killer cop

60 held as protests spread after ‘astonishing’ decision over black man’s death

PROTESTS erupted across New York and US cities from Georgia to California after a white police officer was cleared in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man.

The case has drawn comparisons with the deadly police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

New York City police said early today that more than 60 people were arrested, most for disorderly conduct, after the decision on Wednesday by a Staten Island grand jury not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, heightening tensions that have simmered in the city since the July 17 death of Eric Garner.

A video shot by an onlooker and widely viewed on the Internet showed 43-year-old Mr Garner telling a group of police officers to leave him alone as they tried to arrest him.

Mr Pantaleo responded by wrapping his arm around Mr Garner's neck in what appeared to be a chokehold - banned under NYPD policy.

Mr Garner, who had asthma, was heard repeatedly gasping: "I can't breathe!"

A second video surfaced that showed police and paramedics appearing to make no effort to revive Mr Garner as he lay motionless on the ground. He later died in hospital.

In the neighbourhood where Mr Garner died, people reacted with angry disbelief and chanted: "I can't breathe!" and "Hands up - don't choke!"

In Manhattan, demonstrators laid down in Grand Central Terminal, walked through traffic on the West Side Highway and blocked the Brooklyn Bridge.

Mayor Bill de Blasio cancelled his planned appearance at the annual Rockefeller Centre Christmas tree lighting to hold a news conference at a Staten Island church while citywide protests started to gather steam.

"Today's outcome is one that many in our city did not want," he said in a statement.

Hundreds converged on the heavily secured area around the Rockefeller Centre to protest against the grand jury decision.

"This fight ain't over, it's just begun," said Mr Garner's widow Esaw.

"I am actually astonished based on the evidence of the videotape, and the medical examiner, that this grand jury at this time wouldn't indict for anything," said a lawyer for Mr Garner's family, Jonathan Moore.

US Attorney General Eric Holder said federal prosecutors would conduct their own investigation of Mr Garner's death as officers were attempting to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes on the street.

The NYPD is conducting an internal probe which could lead to administrative charges against Mr Pantaleo, who remains on desk duty.

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