NEW YORK (Reuters) - A fourth evening of demonstrations against police violence was expected in New York on Saturday after the funeral of a black man who was unarmed when he was shot dead by a police officer in a darkened stairwell of a Brooklyn apartment building.
The shooting of Akai Gurley, 28, by a New York city police officer at a city housing project last month is the latest in a series of incidents fueling public outrage over what many see as a pattern of callous misuse of lethal force against minority groups.
The district attorney in the New York City borough of Brooklyn said on Friday a grand jury would consider charges against Peter Liang, the officer who shot Gurley. Police have said Liang may have accidentally discharged his gun.
Gurley was eulogized on the morning after a cold, drenching rain helped tame protests in New York on Friday. There were less than 20 arrests, police said, compared with more than 200 the night before.
The demonstrations began in New York and other cities on Wednesday after a grand jury declined to bring charges against Daniel Pantaleo, a white New York City police officer, in the July death of Eric Garner, a black 43-year-old father of six.
That decision came nine days after a Missouri grand jury chose not to indict a white policeman for the shooting death in August of an unarmed black teenager, spurring two nights of arson and unrest in a St. Louis suburb.
The killings and the decisions by grand juries to return no indictments against the officers involved have rekindled a national debate over race relations in the United States.
In Brooklyn, mourners gathered on rainy Saturday morning at a Baptist church to remember Gurley, the father of a 2-year-old girl.
“Today we’re here because of how Akai was killed, and it’s called racial profiling,” Kevin Powell, a community activist, was quoted by local media as saying in his eulogy.
The turnout for Friday’s protests was sharply lower than the thousands of demonstrators who briefly disrupted traffic at key interactions, bridges and highways on the previous two nights.
Even so, protesters and police alike have showed restraint since the demonstrations began, and no major violence has flared despite the outrage felt by many over the deaths of black men at the hands of police in New York, Missouri and elsewhere.
“The protests remained very peaceful throughout the night,” Detective Michael DeBonis, a spokesman for the New York Police Department, said on Saturday.
While the demonstrations were smaller, they were arguably more dramatic. More than 100 people stormed into an Apple Store on Fifth Avenue to stage a five-minute “die-in,” sprawling on the floor as surprised holiday shoppers and employees watched in bewilderment.
Similar demonstrations were staged at Macy’s flagship department store in Herald Square and at Grand Central Terminal.
Protests also unfolded in Chicago, Boston, Washington, New Orleans and Oakland, California where marchers chanted phrases such as “Black lives matter.”
In Cleveland on Friday, the family of a black 12-year-old boy fatally shot by police filed a lawsuit against the city, a day after the federal government found the police department systematically uses excessive force.
Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Jonathan Oatis