NEW: A St. Louis officer will be disciplined for wearing a "Wilson" badge, police say
NEW: Protests are held Friday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and St. Louis
Demands for justice and change sound out in cities far and wide
Saturday will culminate what organizers call a "Week of Outrage"
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After days of descending on cities coast to coast, protesters demanding an end to police brutality are expected to get loud again Saturday.
In recent weeks, throngs have taken to the streets nationwide after grand juries decided not to indict white police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown near St. Louis and Eric Garner in New York City.
Saturday will culminate what organizers are calling a “Week of Outrage,” with large demonstrations planned in major cities.
“Our message is very simple,” wrote Carl Dix, founder of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, one of the main organizers of the protests. “Since the ‘normal routine’ of America has always included murder of black and Latino people by law enforcement, this week, that ‘normal routine must be disrupted.’”
The protests started Friday at Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and outside City Hall in St. Louis.
A St. Louis police officer will be disciplined because he showed up at City Hall with a “Wilson” badge on his right arm, police spokesman Schron Jackson said. The badge apparently referred to Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown in August. Jackson said the badge violated a department rule about prohibited insignia.
Jeff Roorda of the St. Louis Police Officers Association fired back, saying, “The U.S. Department of Justice has consistently described demonstrations where police officers were shot at and police had Molotov cocktails thrown at them as constitutional, protected free speech, but police officers are apparently not allowed to exercise their constitutional rights to express their support for a fellow police officer exonerated of wrong doing.”
Protesters in major cities, including New York City and Washington D.C., plan marches for Saturday afternoon.
Eric Garner Jr., the son of the man who died after a New York police officer held him in a chokehold, said he was proud of how protesters are carrying on.
“It’s amazing how everybody (is) doing this. My father and I appreciate it.”
But already this week, peaceful protests across the country have been marred by bouts of violence and crowds that disrupted thousands by shutting down freeways.
Here’s the latest on the unrest across the country:
NBA players speak out
“I have a tremendous respect for our players and the fact that they want to speak out on an issue, and we support them doing that,” he said. “Of course, there are the four corners of the court, and in terms of the game itself it is my job to enforce our rules. Having said that, I recognize that there needs to be some flexibility and I think, to me, that was a spontaneous reaction from our players … and my sense is that, to respect it.”
Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, who fought to end segregation and racial discrimination in the South in the 1960s, also joined the group.
And the support is not limited to political figures.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James is one of the big names speaking out.
Before the team faced the Brooklyn Nets on the basketball court Monday night, James wore a T-shirt that said “I can’t breathe” – Eric Garner’s last words, which have become a rallying cry for protesters.
“It was a message to the family. I’m sorry for their loss,” the four-time league MVP said. “As a society, we know we need to get better, but it’s not going to be done in one day. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Obama weighs in
But police are pushing back. In New York City, the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association sent a form for members to sign and return to their PBA delegate requesting the mayor not attend their funeral if the officer is killed in the line of duty because of the mayor’s “consistent refusal to show police officers the support and respect they deserve.”
The city replied with a statement, saying: “This is deeply disappointing. Incendiary rhetoric like this serves only to divide the city, and New Yorkers reject these tactics. The mayor and the speaker both know better than to think this inappropriate stunt represents the views of the majority of police officers and their families.”
After weeks of racial protests across the country, President Barack Obama spoke about the future of race relations in America to a network that reaches a predominantly young African-American audience.
“What I told the young people who I met with – we’re going to have more conversations over the coming months – is, ‘This isn’t something that is going to be solved overnight,’ Obama said in an interview with BET. ” ‘This is something that is deeply rooted in our society. It’s deeply rooted in our history.’ “
In his interview, the President said African-American youths need to be both persistent and patient in order to make progress on the issue of racial tensions in America.
Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer seen on video choking Garner, spoke with internal affairs investigators this week. A New York grand jury decided last week not to indict Pantaleo in Garner’s death.
“He indicated he never used a chokehold,” said Stuart London, his attorney. “He used a takedown technique he was taught in the academy. He said he never exerted any pressure on the windpipe and never intended to injure Mr. Garner.”
In Missouri, Officer Darren Wilson, who maintains he shot Brown in August out of fear for his life, resigned from the Ferguson Police Department last month.