Ithaca, N.Y. — A candlelight vigil outside the Tompkins County Courthouse Tuesday evening has spilled out into a wider protest on the surrounding streets, blocking traffic and setting off off a few highly charged confrontations with Ithaca police.
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No arrests have been made, Chief John Barber said around 6:30 p.m.
“By and large it appears to be a peaceful gathering,” he said.
Barber said police would be getting wooden barricades “for the safety of those holding the vigil.”
Protesters came face-to-face with police officers seeking to ensure that traffic was able to pass on Court Street.
Shouting “No justice, no peace! Shut down the street!,” about a dozen protesters began marching into the intersection of North Tioga Street and Court Street as the candlelight vigil proceeded about 50 feet away. They did so despite oncoming traffic.
These protesters drowned out the words from the quieter speeches being given during the candlelight vigil. The march into the intersection came as the members of the candlelight vigil had been discussing various ways to improve police-community relations in the wake of the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case.
Those speeches continued as the protesters, whose affiliation with the candlelight vigil wasn’t immediately clear, entered the intersection.
A senior investigator with the Ithaca police told a young man to move. It wasn’t clear that he would, but he eventually listened. The young man then walked into the middle of the intersection when an Ithaca police vehicle stopped behind him. The police vehicle honked but the man did not move and was joined by other protesters.
Two officers approached the young man and told him to leave or be arrested. He eventually walked out of the intersection. The tense moments with police weren’t over. One woman in particular repeatedly screamed that police are racist in the cops’ faces.
“No justice, no peace, no racist police!,” she shouted.
Several cars heading east on Court Street had to turn around. At one point a female driver tried honking her way through the crowd but was convinced to instead turn around by a different Ithaca police officer on scene.
We will be posting updates and video later.