US protests turn violent after NY man killed by police buried

New York (AFP) - Police clashed with protesters in California on the fourth night of demonstrations across the United States against recent killings of African American suspects by white police in the United States.

Protesters in Berkeley, California, threw bricks, rocks and pipes at police, who fired tear gas and smoke canisters to quell the crowds.

Several officers were injured, and buildings and cars were vandalized or looted, said police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats.

"Several splinter groups broke off and began hurling bricks, pipe, smoke grenades, and other missiles at officers," Coats told AFP.

"Numerous officers were struck, and one officer was struck with a large sandbag and treated at a local hospital for a dislocated shoulder," she said.

The angry demonstration took place hours after mourners gathered at the New York funeral of an unarmed black man shot dead by police in New York on November 20.

Akai Gurley, 28, father of a two-year-old daughter, was killed when a police officer opened fire in a dimly lit staircase at a Brooklyn apartment building where he was walking with his girlfriend.

Friends and relatives filed past Gurley's open gray casket to pay their respects at the Brown Memorial Baptist Church, before the lid was closed and a huge spray of red and white flowers was placed on top of it.

Gurley, whose mother lived in Florida, had been planning a surprise Thanksgiving trip to introduce her to his daughter last month when he was killed.

- 'Modern-day lynchings' -

Mourners heard a rallying cry for justice at Gurley's funeral.

Activist Kevin Powell, who delivered the eulogy, thanked Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city of New York for covering the costs of the funeral and issued a passionate plea for change.

"Akai was innocent, innocent, innocent," he told the mourners.

"This is modern-day lynchings, over and over again. Akai Gurley was simply the latest victim of this," he said, calling for homicide charges to be brought.

He demanded police reform and spoke of the recent protests that have mobilized thousands of people across the United States to denounce a spate of killings of unarmed black men by white police officers.

"Let's do everything we can to prevent any more situations like this," he said.

Rev. Clinton Miller echoed the call, saying that clergy and activists would work together to ensure that justice would prevail.

"We ask that you would allow brother Akai's name to live forever in our hearts as we continue to fight for what's right in this country and this world," he said. "We will all work together to pursue justice."

The Brooklyn district attorney announced Friday that a grand jury would consider charges in one of the cases that has again brought to the fore the distrust felt by many African Americans towards the police.

Gurley's funeral comes amid nationwide protests across the United States against a spate of killings of black suspects by white police officers, including 18-year-old Michael Brown who was shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9 and Eric Garner, a father of six who was killed in a chokehold by police in New York in July.

Last month, a 12-year-old African American boy brandishing a replica gun was shot dead in Cleveland, Ohio, by police only seconds after they arrived at the scene.

Protests continued Saturday with civil rights activist Al Sharpton's National Action Network holding an event in Harlem attended by actor Spike Lee.

Other high-profile figures made statements, including Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose, who warmed up for an NBA game Saturday in a T-shirt bearing the words "I Can't Breathe".

Those were the final words gasped by 43-year-old Garner, whom police wrestled to the ground in New York's Staten Island for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.

Protests continued in Washington DC, where main roads and a bridge were closed as rolling demonstrations moved through the city.

At New York's Grand Central Station, protesters staged "die-ins" lying on the ground of the busy terminal and chanting "Eric Garner, Michael Brown. Shut it down, shut it down."

- Remembering Gurley -

Gurley's funeral included music from gospel singers, accompanied by a drummer and keyboard player, as well as the reading of a poem by Gurley's sobbing younger brother, comforted by a relative.

A video montage included images of him as a toddler as well as a proud father holding his daughter and pointing to the camera grinning.

A handful of elected officials, including New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and various activists also attended the ceremony.

Brooklyn district attorney Ken Thompson said he would present all the evidence for a grand jury to decide whether charges should be brought.

"I pledge to conduct a full and fair investigation and to give the grand jury all of the information necessary to do its job," he said.

New York's police commissioner has said Gurley was a totally innocent victim.

After rookie cop Peter Liang discharged the bullet that struck Gurley, he and partner Shaun Landau did not respond to radio contact for more than six-and-a-half minutes, the New York Daily News said.

Instead it was a neighbor who phoned for the ambulance that rushed Gurley to the hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.

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