NEW YORK - Protest demonstrations against the death of Freddie Gray, a 25 year old African-American man who died in police custody in Baltimore, spread to major cities across the United States.

In New York more than 60 protesters were arrested on Wednesday evening. Bottles were thrown as more than 1,000 demonstrators gathered at Union Square in the heart of the city.

Other protesters broke away and tried to block the Holland Tunnel linking New York City with neighbouring State of New Jersey during the rush hour. Further arrests were made after scuffling broke out in Times Square later in the evening.  Chanting “no justice, no peace” and “hands up, don’t shoot”, the demonstrators ignored warnings that they faced arrest if they carried on with their march.

Heated confrontations could be seen in the footage and images capturing the scene in New York. A split-screen on CNN showed the marches in Baltimore paired with a line of police officers in Manhattan facing off with a group of protesters.

Many of the New York City marchers then began to chant “I can’t breathe,” quoting Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died last year after being placed in what appeared to be a chokehold by a police officer. Garner’s death sparked repeated protests against police actions in New York, and “I can’t breathe” became a common refrain during those demonstrations.

Journalists and observers on the streets of New York shared photos and footage of protesters being handcuffed by police, and many of them reported seeing multiple people getting arrested. A spokesman for the New York City Police Department said on Wednesday night that the number of people arrested there would not be released until Thursday morning.

Marchers also demonstrated in Boston on Wednesday. Police there said the peaceful protest had dispersed and reported no arrests as of shortly after 9 p.m.

In Minneapolis, protesters marching through the city flowed through downtown intersections, remaining peaceful as they moved, police said.

Authorities redirected traffic in the area as the demonstrators moved through intersections and headed toward the Hennepin Avenue Bridge that runs over the Mississippi River.

Further north in Boston around 1,000 demonstrators took to the streets.

William Gross, a senior black police officer, waded into the crowd and attempted to defuse tension by shaking hands with the crowd. Protests also took place in Minneapolis and Washington DC.

Meanwhile in Baltimore, where Gray, 25, died in police custody, protesters were gathering ahead of a 10 pm city curfew.

Tension in the city, where there was major rioting and looting earlier this week, was rekindled when it was announced that Baltimore Police will not release its report into Gray’s death.

A large contingent of the Maryland National Guard remained on hand to reinforce the police in maintaining order.

As a precaution the Baltimore Orioles baseball game against the Chicago White Sox was played before a near empty stadium, with fans being denied entry as a precaution.

Even though Tuesday night’s curfew held in the city there were 35 arrests during the night and further arrests in the city during the day. However the curfew appeared to be holding in the city. The sweeping protests carried echoes of what happened in America last year following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

The majority of the demonstrators were young and a significant proportion African-American. .It was a reflection of the growing mistrust of police in some cities after series of incidents in the past 12 months in which unarmed blacks have been killed by white officers.

President Barack Obama’s description of the rioters who torched vehicles and buildings in Baltimore as thugs enraged some black activists.

One preacher, the Rev. Jamal Bryant, condemned Obama’s remarks.  “It’s amazing. You don’t call six police officers who kill a man without probable cause thugs, but children who are frustrated and don’t have an outlet, you call them thugs,” he said.

“‘Thugs’ is the 21st century word for the n-word. And it is repulsive and it is offensive to every person who is a parent trying to raise children interpreting what’s taking place in this hour.”