NEW DELHI: Just a week after protests engulfed the United States following a grand jury’s decision to not indict a white officer involved in the fatal shooting of unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown, another similar incident has prompted widespread criticism. On Wednesday, a grand jury let a white police officer walk free for the death of Eric Garner.

Thousands of people flooded the streets of New York -- where the grand jury delivered its verdict and that incident had taken place -- and other cities across the US. Garner’s death had been clearly ruled a homicide by a city medical examiner in July.

The 43 year old African-American was confronted on Staten Island on the suspicion of selling illegal cigarettes. He was not shot from a distance, but brutally choked to death until he suffered cardiac arrest.

Garner’s final words “I can’t breathe” have become symbolic for the protesters.

Just as Mike Brown’s death sparked off protests fuelled by chants of 'hands up, don't shoot' and a powerful social media response centred on the hashtag “BlackLivesMatter, Garner’s death has prompted a similar movement against social injustice and racial discrimination in America’s law enforcement agencies and wider society.

Trending on Twitter is the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite -- started by Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon writer Jason Ross -- with users posting stories of their own brush-ins with the law and the lighter treatment meted out to them based on the colour of their skin. The stories are abundant, which is not surprising given that young black men in the US are 21 times more likely to be killed by a cop than whites are -- and the cop in question is usually white.

Social media has effectively demonstrated that whites and people of colour are treated vastly different in the United States, and brought back into mainstream discourse issues of race, justice and equality.