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Garner protesters persist despite weather, fading headlines

Protesters conduct a 'die in' after a grand jury decided not to indict the police offCem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Already a week since a Staten Island jury declined to indict an NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner, New Yorkers around the five boroughs continue to mobilize in protests and demonstrations to demand justice.

The most vocal protesters appear unfazed by the more than 300 arrests and blustery winter weather. Whether other New Yorkers are willing to keep and put up with the daily demonstrations is unclear.

Not unlike the days of Occupy Wall Street, a mix of galvanized individuals and already organized groups are manifesting into marches around the city – many connected by way of retweeted announcements and shared Facebook events.

Synead Nichols, 23, is not an professional organizer. A performer and student, she told Metro she's never put together anything near the size of Millions March NYC before creating it last month. Now, she's meeting with tens of like-minded people volunteering to help at Washington Square Park on Saturday.

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"We have no funding. We have nothing," she said. "People are doing this from the kindness of their hearts. That's the most rewarding part."

The native New Yorker said she joined a spontaneous Manhattan rally hours after a Missouri grand jury declined to indict a police officer for shooting and killing unarmed teen Michael Brown.

Only days later, the unrest came closer to home when NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo was not indicted in the apparent choking death of Staten Island man Eric Garner.

"When you have cases like Ferguson, there's a bit of distance between us," Nichols said. "But here... I don't know how much more evidence you need for just an indictment."

The Facebook page is host to posts from allies and critics alike, with links to other conversations, stories and events – including rabble-rousers who Nichols said want to disrupt what she expects to be a "peaceful gathering."

Even as Nichols works independently of any other groups or organizers, she isn't alone in her mission. A handful of the city's most organized activists recently joined forces to create Justice League NYC.

A "task force" co-organized by Carmen Perez of the Gathering for Justice nonprofit created by activist crooner Harry Belafonte, the Justice League already released a list of 10 demands, chief among them the firing of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for Garner's death.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told reporters on Sunday that the NYPD would investigate Pantaleo's actions internally.

Perez, 37, explained that the almost daily demonstrations only appear to be random.

"It does take a lot of work," she said, detailing the coordination that happens between groups both online and off. "We're working around the clock with minimal food and energy."

The group will read its list of demandsin front of City Hall on Wednesday afternoon, which it says is also an International Day of Action with synchronized events worldwide.

In terms of the graying skies and shifting winds, Justice League NYC member Cherrell Brown of Equal Justice USA said the energy at the demonstrations still overrides the weather.

Brown, 25, has more than 32,000 followers on Twitter, many of whom rely on her feed for the latest news on demonstrations that have energized many and frustrated others caught in the path of hundreds of marchers, whether in the subways or the roadways.

"If most people are uncomfortable, they can go home and warm up in their Snuggies. Black people are uncomfortable everyday,” Brown said.

"In fact, you should probably be uncomfortable, because that's what struggle is," she added. "Things don't tend to change if someone isn't inconvenienced."

 
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