Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Manhattan following the grand jury decision not to indict New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo over the death of Eric Garner who he put in a chokehold.

Crowds shouted "I can't breathe" as they took to the streets of Manhattan in the early hours of this morning (4 December) in protest at the lack of justice for the 43-year-old father of six.

There had been 30 arrests by mid-evening yesterday.

Pantaleo escaped prosecution after he put Garner in a chokehold from behind and tackled him with other officers when he accused him of selling cigarettes illegally on a sidewalk in Staten Island. Police said he resisted arrest.

"A murderer was caught on camera, and for whatever reason they [the grand jury] decided to let a murder go free, and this keeps happening," said protester Adina Bloom, who was marching to the Rockefeller Christmas Tree lighting from Times Square.

US attorney general Eric Holder has now launched a federal investigation into "potential civil rights violations" when Garner was placed in the chokehold.

A video captured the asthmatic on video shouting "I can't breathe!" as police officers restrained him.

Holder said: "We've all seen the video of Mr Garner's arrest. His death is of course was a tragedy. All lives must be valued – all lives. Mr Garner's death is one of several recent incidents across our great country that have tested the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve and to protect."

He added: "I urge all inclined to demonstrate on Wednesday and in the days ahead, to remain peaceful in their demonstrations and not to engage in activities that deflect our attention from the very serious matters that our nation must confront."