Ferguson Die-In Protesters Disrupt Philly Rush Hour, City Hall Tree Lighting - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Ferguson Die-In Protesters Disrupt Philly Rush Hour, City Hall Tree Lighting

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    Protestors took to the streets of Philadelphia Wednesday night, demanding justice after grand jury decisions over police action in Ferguson and New York. Protests started in 30th Street Station just before rush hour, and spilled over into one of the city's biggest holiday traditions -- the lighting of the Christmas tree at City Hall. NBC10's George Spencer reports. (Published Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014)

    After holding a "die-in" inside Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, more than 100 demonstrators  marched through the streets of Center City Wednesday afternoon protesting a grand jury's decision not to indict former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson.

    The group In Defense of Black Bodies invited hundreds of demonstrators to meet in the Amtrak station's Grand Hall at 3:45 p.m. in anticipation of the "die-in" protest. In such protests, participants drop to the ground in unison.

    Some began to lay down early, but the official event took place at 4:15 p.m. Nonblack protesters were asked to sit in solidarity, but not lay down, the group wrote in their Facebook event.

    Philly Protesters Disrupt Rush HourPhilly Protesters Disrupt Rush Hour

    Philadelphia Police officers near the Ben Franklin Parkway are standing their ground and not allowing protesters onto the Vine Street Expressway and I-76. NBC10's Rosemary Connors has the details.
    (Published Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014)

    Demonstrators will were down on the ground for 4 minutes and 30 seconds signifying the time Michael Brown's body was on the ground -- 4 hours and 30 minutes -- following his deadly altercation with Wilson, the group said.

    Once the time was up, the group left the station and walked along Schuylkill Avenue toward the I-76 on-ramp. Police on bikes blocked the ramp and protesters yelled at the officers for preventing them from entering the highway. They chanted "Black Lives Matter" and "Hands Up. Don't Shoot."

    After about five minutes, the group turned around and began making their way towards Philadelphia City Hall. At 16th Street, the group turned north and west toward the Vine Street Expressway at 22nd Street.

    Again, police blocked off the on-ramp. Protesters could be heard chanting "Mike Brown" and "I can't breathe" referencing a New York grand jury's decision on Wednesday not to indict a NYPD officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

    Protesters Take Over City HallProtesters Take Over City Hall

    NBC10's Rosemary Connors reports as Ferguson protestors make their way down Market Street towards City Hall, just in time for the annual holiday tree lighting.
    (Published Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014)

    Protesters made it to City Hall around 5:30 p.m. and moved into the courtyard where the city's Christmas tree is. They chanted "Shut it down" and drowned out a girl singing "Silent Night." She eventually stopped singing prompting cheers from the crowd. Other performances were also drowned out. The lighting of the tree, however, happened as planned at 7:55 as protesters looked on.

    Police tell NBC10 that the protests, while tense at times, remained peaceful with only one arrest when a man tried to hop a fence to get closer to the Christmas tree. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey considered how his officers handled the protesters and lighting a "success."

    "Our job is to see to it that they can protest and at the same time, families that want to come down and see the Christmas tree lit have a chance to do that," said Ramsey.

    A number of group members posted photos and videos to social networks showing the protests, but the Philadelphia Police Department could also be seen filming the demonstrations.

    Michael Brown, 18, was killed after being shot several times by Wilson on Aug. 9. Wilson said Brown assaulted him, but the teen's family and some witnesses dispute that. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson in the case last week prompting violent riots in Ferguson. Several demonstrations have taken place in Philly since in addition to other cities.