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At Rallies in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Activists Chant 'Black Lives Matter'

AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek

Crowds protesting the deaths of two unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers marched in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia on Wednesday.

In Philadelphia, a group rallied at the train station and marched through downtown before disrupting a tree lighting ceremony at City Hall. The group's chants of "No justice, no Christmas!" and other phrases drowned out several performances at the City Hall celebration, but the tree was lit as scheduled.

Activists had originally organized the march to protest a grand jury's Nov. 24 decision not to indict Darren Wilson, an officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown during a confrontation in Ferguson, Missouri.

Then Wednesday afternoon, a New York grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the videotaped chokehold death of Eric Garner, who had been stopped for trying to sell loose, untaxed cigarettes.

In Pittsburgh, demonstrators gathered in the city's Oakland neighborhood for a march that stopped traffic.

Cities across the U.S. have seen numerous protests since the Wilson grand jury decision last week. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama proposed spending $75 million on body cameras for police to record interactions with civilians.

Philadelphia protester Christopher Benson, 20, said he was impressed by the outpouring of support for Brown and Garner. He also supports the use of body cameras.

"That protects us and it protects them," Benson said.

The Philadelphia activists first rallied at 30th Street Station, the main train stop downtown, holding signs and then lying on the floor of the waiting area. After leaving the building, they briefly blocked a highway on-ramp before marching through downtown to City Hall.

They chanted, "Black lives matter!" and the words Garner repeatedly gasped to police — "I can't breathe — during the attempt to arrest him in July.

Students at Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania Law School held demonstrations Tuesday. Activists in Pittsburgh planned another protest Thursday.