NEW YORK (Reuters) - Roughly 1 million revelers rang in the new year at New York’s Times Square under unusually tight security for the nation’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration, while at least 29 protesters were arrested in California after violence broke out at a march against police brutality.
While security is always tight in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, particularly since the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, extra precautions were put in place on Wednesday to prevent violence at the famed midtown Manhattan crossroads.
Across the country, a march by 130 demonstrators through downtown Oakland, California, erupted in violence at about 10:30 p.m., with bottles and bricks thrown at police officers, trash cans thrown in the street and illegal fireworks ignited, Oakland police said. At least 29 people were arrested on charges including vandalism and assault with a deadly weapon.
In New York City, hours before the giant crystal ball was to drop at midnight, bomb-sniffing dogs and counter-terrorism units joined uniformed officers posted on the streets, rooftops and in subway stations around Times Square. But all was peaceful just after midnight as up to 1 million fun-seekers roared in celebration in frigid weather against a backdrop of fireworks.
Sporadic violence and problems marred New Year’s celebrations around the United States, from Tampa, Florida, where a stray bullet fired in “celebratory” gunfire wounded a woman at Busch Gardens to the Denver suburb of Aurora, where a fight at a house party left four people with stab wounds, including one who was critically injured.
The year 2014 was marked by months of protests over the deaths of unarmed black males at the hands of white police officers.
Tensions in New York flared up nearly two weeks ago when two officers sitting in a patrol car in Brooklyn were slain in an apparent act of retribution against law enforcement.
The ambush of the two officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, was carried out by a gunman who vowed to avenge the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said that over the past week, more than 80 threats against police had been made on social media sites, leading to at least 15 arrests.
“Any threat against my officers will be dealt with very quickly, very effectively,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday in Times Square. “We’re not going to let any of them go by the board.”
About 100 people protesting excessive police force assembled just south of Times Square several hours before midnight and weaved up city sidewalks toward the packed New Year’s festivities. Stop Mass Incarceration, the organizers of the event called “Rock in the New Year with Resistance to Police Murder,” were denied a city permit to march in the street and instead used the sidewalks. One person was arrested, police said.
A smaller protest with no arrests took place in Boston on Wednesday, with dozens of people peacefully staging a “die-in” demonstration at First Night festivities, a yearly New Year’s Eve event that draws hundreds of small children.
Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Ellen Wulfhorst in New York, Victoria Cavaliere in Seattle, Emmett Berg in San Francisco and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; editing by Bill Trott, James Dalgleish and Matthew Lewis