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Hundreds of protesters take to Somerville, Cambridge streets

Protesters staged a "die-in" in the middle of Central Square in response to Wednesday’s grand jury decision in the choking death of Eric Garner.
Protesters staged a "die-in" in the middle of Central Square in response to Wednesday’s grand jury decision in the choking death of Eric Garner.(Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff)

SOMERVILLE — Hundreds of protesters marched through Somerville and Cambridge on Friday in a second night of demonstrations against grand jury decisions not to indict two white police officers involved in the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island.

Protesters assembled at Tufts University shortly after 4:30 p.m. and quickly made their way to Davis Square in Somerville, where some of the demonstrators lay down on the ground in a “die-in.” The crowd then walked to Massachusetts Avenue, where the group effectively blocked all traffic.

Throughout the evening, the protesters chanted “We want justice” and “Shut it down” as they expressed their anger about the grand juries’ decisions and called for shutting down “the system.”

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Last week, a St. Louis County grand jury did not indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and a grand jury in New York this week also decided not to indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, whom the officer choked to death.

When the marchers got to Massachusetts Avenue and Hancock Street on Friday, they chanted, “Turn up. Don’t turn down. Justice for Mike Brown.”

Demonstrators also stopped at each of the main squares along the way, including Porter, Harvard, and Central. At each square, the protesters laid on the ground for 4½ minutes to symbolize the number of hours that Brown was left in the street after he was shot and killed.

Although the protest was initially organized by undergraduate students at Tufts, the diverse crowd featured people of all ages.

“We are here because black lives matter,” said Amber Rose Johnson, 21, one of the protest’s organizers.

Cambridge police reported no arrests early in the evening.

“It was something we had planned for,” said Jeremy Warnick, director of communications for the Cambridge Police Department. “We were well prepared.”

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Somerville police would not comment on the demonstrations.

Spokesman David Procopio said State Police did not make any arrests.

“We prevented protesters from accessing the Mass. Ave. Bridge from the Cambridge side [Memorial Drive],” Procopio said in a statement. “They conducted a ‘die in’ near, but not on, the bridge. They have since dispersed and are now headed back through Cambridge toward Somerville. We will continue to help local police monitor them and we will continue to deny them access to any major highways.”

Tina Atkins, who was home for the holidays from New York City, took part in the protests to raise awareness about “racial flaws” in the justice system.

“Everybody needs to have rights,” she said. “How many people have to die?”

It was the second straight day of protests about the grand juries’ decisions; more than 1,000 demonstrators marched through Boston on Thursday.

Among the demonstrators Friday, students from across the country attending area schools voiced concerns about the public’s awareness on the issue.

After the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager who died after a confrontation with a neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Fla., in 2012, David Preprah tried demonstrating in New York, but almost no one else attended.

Preprah, 21, a biology student at Harvard, hoped these demonstrations would help bring about change.

“I just want people to think,” Preprah said. “This is not just going to stop. This is something we have to fight for.”

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The demonstrations in the Boston area come as people nationwide have taken to the streets to protest the cases of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Demonstrators were marching, chanting and lying down in New York City for a third night, with one group of over 100 protesters lapping Manhattan’s Columbus Circle and demonstrating a “die-in” at an Apple store on Fifth Avenue.

In Miami, hundreds of protesters shut down I-195, chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” and “no justice, no peace,” according to the Miami Herald.

Demonstrators in Washington, D.C. also blocked traffic as they marched through Chinatown and near the Verizon Center, also staging “die-ins” for around four hours to symbolize the four hours Michael Brown’s body was left in the street in Ferguson, Mo., according to the Washington Post.

Protesters in Chicago also marched through the Loop for the second day in a row, gathering around 1:30 p.m. today before marching through the city’s downtown, according to ABC News.

Police said about 600 protesters were taking to the streets Friday night in a rally that started in Somerville and made its way through Cambridge.
Police said about 600 protesters were taking to the streets Friday night in a rally that started in Somerville and made its way through Cambridge.(Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff)

The following are reports and photos from the scene:


Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.