A City Heights park became the setting for two very different events Friday evening: one, a protest against the chokehold death of Eric Garner; and the second, a San Diego Police-hosted family movie night and gift drive.
Demonstrators told NBC 7 they plan to hold a “die-in” at the Jeremy Henwood Memorial Park on Fairmont Avenue, where they will lay on the ground like corpses. They will do it for 11 minutes, symbolizing the number of times Garner said he couldn’t breathe before he died.
At the other end of the park, the SDPD held a toy drive and set up an outdoor screen to project the movie “Frozen,” alongside popcorn and hot cocoa stations.
The protesters said they do not want to get in the way of the scheduled family night. In fact, some brought toys to contribute to the gift drive.
But they also say it will not stop them from getting their message out into the community. Chanting "I can't breathe," the group marched down Fairmont Avenue to Wightman Street, walked to University Avenue and turned back to the park.
The protest stayed relatively calm -- quieter than many rallies held all over the U.S.
Outrage against the Garner case sparked marches and die-ins across the country this week. On Wednesday, a New York grand jury decided not to indict white NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Garner, a black man who was unarmed.
Cellphone video from the July 17 incident shows Panteleo putting Garner into a chokehold as he wrestles him to the ground, trying to arrest Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.
Garner is heard repeating “I can’t breathe.” He went into cardiac arrest and died shortly after. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.
The local protest Friday comes the week after hundreds of San Diegans took to the streets in solidarity with Ferguson, Missouri protesters. They rallied against the shooting death of unarmed, black teen Michael Brown, who was shot to death by police officer Darren Wilson. A grand jury declined to file charges against Wilson as well.