A decision not to indict an officer implicated in the death of an unarmed black man in New York has prompted protests, followed by arrests. The US Attorney General has announced a federal civil rights investigation.
The Wednesday grand jury decision sparked protests, with thousands rallying in New York and other US cities.
Police said some 30 people had been arrested in New York City alone. The protests came after a New York grand jury decided not to indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo. The officer is alleged to have applied a fatal chokehold grip to 43-year-old Eric Garner, who was suspected of illegally selling loose cigarettes in New York borough of Staten Island.
The attempted arrest in July was captured on video and went viral over the Internet, fueling debate about US police and alleged racism.
Amid the chants heard on Wednesday evening's protests - at gathering points such as Times Square and Grand Central Terminus - were "I can't breathe" - Garner's words captured on microphone during the arrest - and "How do you spell racist? N-Y-P-D!"
Plea for peace
Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, thanked protesters for showing their support and also asked that the rallies remained peaceful.
"We need all of your support, but we need peace. We want you to rally but we want you to rally in peace. Make a statement, but make it in peace," Carr said. "I thank each and every one of you for coming out tonight to give your support for our family and for our son who I will never see again."
US Attorney General Eric Holder had said earlier on Wednesday that the Justice Department would launch a federal civil rights investigation into the death of Eric Garner.
"Our prosecutors will conduct an independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation," Holder told reporters. "In addition to performing our own investigative work, the department will conduct a complete review of the material gathered during the local investigation."
It was the second grand jury decision in a little over a week to not prosecute a white policeman implicated in the death of an unarmed black man. The decision by grand jurors not to proceed with charges against officer Darren Wilson over the death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, also sparked a wave of unrest.
US President Barack Obama spoke about the Garner case on Wednesday, claiming that the grand jury decision underscored the need to strengthen the trust and accountability between communities and law enforcement.
rc/ksb (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)