'Die-in' protesters gather at City Hall prior to tree lighting ceremony

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Semonstrators moved to City Hall's tree lighting ceremony, in protest of the grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York.

After holding a 'die-in' at 30th Street Station Wednesday, demonstrators moved to City Hall, the scene of tonight's tree lighting ceremony, in protest of the decisions in Missouri and New York not to indict two white police officers in the deaths of two black men.

The protesters gathered at the courtyard around 5:40 p.m., just twenty minutes from when the ceremony began.

"We can't do nothing anymore and we're trying to do it peaceful and we're trying to do it respectfully but things need to be disturbed if we're going to shake something up here," said Dyrnesha Harris.

The group could be heard chanting "no justice" and "hands up, don't shoot" as performers on stage sang Christmas carols.

The announcer at the ceremony told the audience, "holidays are time for peace, joy, and love" and asked them to hold peace signs in the air.

Even as children sang Christmas carols on stage, the protests continued.

"We want to show support. We want to be respectful to all the people performing but we also want to spread our voices," said Julia McGehean.

The demonstrators had the right to protest but was the timing right? That brought a mixed reaction from those who attended the holiday celebration.

"Whatever they gotta do to get justice and peace - hey I'm with it," said Nicole Johnson.

"It's a tragic situation but people out here are trying to ruin it for everybody else. It's a tragic situation and it should have never happened," said Charles Joseph.

City officials told Action News ahead of the ceremony that if anyone got unruly and if the situation became turbulent, then people would be removed from the courtyard.

It appears that only one protester was arrested after he jumped a barricade.

"Our job is to let them protest but allow them the event to take place at the same time and I think so far we've been very successful at doing that and that was our only goal, our only aim," said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

The protests began at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday when about a dozen people dropped to the floor in unison at 30th Street Station.

"We will "die" for 4 minutes and 30 seconds, to honor Mike Brown, and recognize the 4 hours and 30 minutes his body was left on the ground,", according to a Facebook post.

They were simulating how Michael Brown's body was lying after he was shot and killed by now former Ferguson, Missouri Officer Darren Wilson in August.

The silent protest turned vocal as hundreds joined the group and marched out of 30th Street Station with their arms in the 'hands up, don't shoot' pose.

They then tried to get onto the interstate. At one point, police blocked the ramp to the Schuylkill Expressway and Vine Street Expressway.

"We are trying to disrupt the flow of traffic in the station and downtown, and make our voices heard," the Facebook post read.

The group continued to march to City Hall, then to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway towards the Art Museum before returning to Market Street.

While Ferguson is the underlying tone, the protest was also sparked by a New York grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer for the chokehold that killed unarmed black man Eric Garner. In July, Garner was stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo was cleared after his lawyer said he used a takedown move taught by the department.

Similar events are taking place across the country, including today in New York and last week at the Chesterfield Mall in Chesterfield, Mo.

Protesters stage a "die in" inside Chesterfield Mall, Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, in Chesterfield, Mo.

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philly newsprotestfergusonCenter City Philadelphia
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