Protests were held in New York City, Washington DC, St Louis, Philadelphia and Oakland after a grand jury decided not to bring charges against a white police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man.

Eric Garner I cant breathe protests
A NYPD policeman reacts as people protest against the death of Eric Garner during an arrest in JulyEric Thayer/Reuters
Eric Garner I cant breathe protests
Protesters lie down in Grand Central Station in New YorkTimothy A Clary/AFP
Eric Garner I cant breathe protests
Police watch protesters on the West Side Highway in New YorkYana Paskova/Getty Images
Eric Garner I cant breathe protests
Protesters walk on the West Side Highway in New YorkYana Paskova/Getty Images

Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, had been accused of illegally selling cigarettes outside a Staten Island beauty salon when officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in a chokehold from behind and tackled him with the help of other officers.

The grand jury did indict one person involved in the Eric Garner killing – the man who filmed it. Ramsey Orta was arrested on weapons charges by narcotics police who alleged that they saw Orta put a handgun in the waistband of a companion outside a hotel.

Orta, who told police at the time of his arrest "you're just mad because I filmed your boy", believes the charges were falsely raised because he shot the viral video.

The video widely viewed on the internet showed Garner telling a group of police officers to leave him alone as they tried to arrest him. Pantaleo responded by wrapping his arm around Garner's neck in what appeared to be a chokehold, which is banned under NYPD policy.

The heavyset Garner, who had asthma, was heard repeatedly gasping, "I can't breathe!"

Police union officials and Pantaleo's lawyer argued that the officer used a legal move taught by the police department because Garner was resisting arrest. They said the main reason he died was his poor health, including asthma and obesity.

eric garner mother
Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, listens as civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton speaks at the National Action Network in Harlem, New YorkCarlo Allegri/Reuters
eric garner staten island
People stand around outside the beauty salon in Staten Island where Eric Garner was killed on 17 July by a police officer who put him in a chokeholdAndrew Burton/Getty Images

Garner's stepfather, Benjamin Carr, urged calm but said the ruling made no sense. "It's just a licence to kill a black man," he said, calling the justice system "not worth a damn."

Jonathan Moore, a lawyer for Garner's family, said: "I am actually astonished based on the evidence of the videotape, and the medical examiner, that this grand jury at this time wouldn't indict for anything."

Eric Garner I cant breathe protests
Protesters hold banners and block an intersection in Washington DCMladen Antonov/AFP
Eric Garner I cant breathe protests
Demonstrators block traffic at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DCAlex Wong/Getty Images
Eric Garner I cant breathe protests
Demonstrators block traffic on Highway I-395 in Washington, DCTJ Kirkpatrick/Getty Images
Eric Garner I cant breathe protests
A protester shouts in front of the Thomas F Eagleton Courthouse in St Louis, MissouriJim Young/Reuters
Eric Garner I cant breathe protests
A protester yells as he is detained during a demonstration in St Louis, MissouriJim Young/Reuters
Eric Garner I cant breathe protests
A demonstrator cries in Philadelphia while protesting against the Eric Garner grand jury decisionMark Makela/Getty Images
Eric Garner I cant breathe protests
A protester in Oakland, California, wears a sign during a demonstration against the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric GarnerStephen Lam/Reuters

It was the second grand jury in just over a week to decline to prosecute a white policeman in the death of an unarmed black man. The decision by a panel in the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked a spasm of violence, with businesses burned and looted in the St Louis suburb.