Washington, New York marchers protest police killings

By Ian Simpson, Lacey Johnson and Jonathan Spicer

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Thousands of marchers gathered in Washington and New York on Saturday to protest killings of unarmed black men by law enforcement officers and to urge Congress to do more to protect blacks from unjustified police violence.

Organizers said the marches would rank among the largest in the recent wave of protests against the killings of black males by officers in Ferguson, Missouri; New York; Cleveland; and elsewhere.

Decisions by grand juries to return no indictments against the officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York have put police treatment of minorities back on the national agenda.

"We're going to keep the light on Mike Brown ... on all of the victims. The only way you make roaches run is to keep the light on," said civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network organized the Washington rally.

Protesters from around the country gathered at Freedom Plaza, a few blocks from the White House, then marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to rally near the white-domed U.S. Capitol.

Marchers, who included many parents with children, shouted "No justice, no peace, no racist police" and "Hands up, don't shoot." Protesters carried signs that said "All men are created equal" and "Black lives matter."

Sharpton urged Congress to pass legislation that would allow federal prosecutors to take over cases involving police violence. He said local district attorneys often work with police regularly, raising the potential of conflicts of interest when prosecutors investigate incidents.

The Washington protest included relatives of Eric Garner and Akai Gurley, who were killed by New York police; Trayvon Martin, slain by a Florida neighborhood watchman in 2012; Brown; and others.

"Wow, what a sea of people," said Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden. "If they don't see this and make a change, I don't know what we're going to do."

In Missouri, a prosecutor on Saturday made public documents related to the probe into Brown's killing, saying his office had inadvertently held them back.

Organizers estimated the crowd at 40,000 to 50,000. A police spokesman declined to provide a crowd estimate, citing department policy, and said there had been no incidents.

The New York march drew a mostly young, ethnically diverse crowd that was loud and peaceful as it headed north up Manhattan's Fifth Avenue from Washington Square Park. The march was to circle back and end at the city's police headquarters.

Protesters chanted "How do you spell racist? NYPD" and some taunted police guarding the march route.

"What's great is so many young people are stepping forward. There has to be state policies; we have to keep fighting," said Umaara Eliott, 19, a co-organizer of the march.

Observers estimated that more than 10,000 protesters marched in New York.

Hundreds of protesters also rallied in Boston. The Massachusetts State Police said "several demonstrators who failed to comply with the law despite orders to do so have been taken into custody."

(Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Larry King and David Gregorio)