Thousands of people took to the streets on May Day to march from Bryant Park to Wall Street. Most protesters had a permit, and Broadway was closed down from Union Square all the way down to the Financial District. Still, the protest did get out of hand at certain points, which resulted in 30 arrests, according the NYPD.
The protesters gathered early in the morning on May 1 at Bryant Park and started marching downtown at 2 pm. Amongst them were Tom Morello, the guitarist from Audioslave and Rage against the Machine, who is well known for his social activism. He led the “Occupy Guitarmy” down fifth avenue which played famous folk songs like “This land is your land,” as well as the Occupy Wall St. chant “All day, all week occupy Wall St.”
Morello performed at Union Square along with Immortal Technique, Das Racist and Dan Deacon. The performances lasted until 5:30 pm at which point the protesters continued on their way to Wall St.
The marchers consisted of labor unions, immigrant groups and Occupiers alike. The homemade signs featured a variety of messages addressing topics such as student debt; “I owe Sallie Mae 25 000 dollars”, Wall St. bankers; “Prosecute the fraud,” and “we got sold out, banks got bailed out”, environmentalism; “stop fracking”, the military industrial complex; “stop the wars”, communism; “Anti-Capitalism now”, racial profiling; “stop NYPD entrapment of Muslims” and immigration reform; “don’t deport my mom, please.”
One of the members of Liuna Local 78, a union of Latino Asbestos workers, that The Ticker spoke to explained that they were out marching as part of International Worker’s Day.
“We celebrate labor day,” he said. “We are workers and we support all the workers in the world and the workers that are here today.” Most of the union members were carrying signs saying “immigration reform now.” One of their most popular chants were “Si, se puede,” the motto of United Farm Workers. President Barack Obama famously used the English translation, “Yes, we can” in the 2008 election.
Another important union present at the demonstration was the Transport Workers Union. Dexter Victory from Transport Workers Union Local 100 said that they are soon to be in negotiations with the MTA about their contract and he accused the MTA of treating their workers unfairly. “This is the contract fight of our lives right now,” he said.
He was not afraid to use some colorful language. “MTA wants to take and strip and rape our contract and have our families hungry and starving in the streets and rip us off of our benefits. So this is important to us and we just not advocating for transport workers but for all the working class.”
The methods used by Jackson, TWU and other labor unions to organize are quite different from those of the general assembly at the Occupy Wall Street movement. While the unions got a permit to walk, Occupy Wall Street came to prominence after a series of marches where they blocked traffic and consequently many Occupiers were arrested.
“They have their own way of doing things,” Jackson said. “It has to be respected because it has good intentions, it has made the movement stronger and it has gone global.” He praised OWS for the influence they’ve had on unions but maintained that keeping people out of harms way has to be a priority.
“We commend them for what they’re doing because they’ve awoken the unions and taught us how to do it better and move towards the future. The only thing is we have to figure out how to do it and keep our people safe.”
Jackson noted that security around these kinds of demonstrations has escalated since Occupy Wall Street started. “I’m getting messages right now that security is pretty heavy back in the park.”
The messages Jackson were getting concerned several arrests the NYPD made at Union Square, Bryant Park and other areas around the Lower East Side. According to the NYPD, 15 people were arrested before the protest reached Wall Street.
When the demonstrators reached Zuccotti Park some of them started chanting, “home sweet home.” Down at Wall Street, several organizers of the protest were giving speeches.
At 7 pm, one of the organizers took the microphone and announced that the demonstrators’ sound permit had expired. The labor unions dispersed for the most part after that, but members of Occupy Wall Street decided to march to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to continue the protest.
At first they were only about 100 people, according to The Ticker’s estimates but as the Occupiers took to Twitter more and more protesters starting coming to the Memorial and filling up the space.
Soon, the number of Occupiers reached over 1,000 and the police started to make their presence known. The NYPD warned the protesters that they would have to leave by 10 p.m., which is the curfew for New York City public parks.
As it usually is with these kinds of protests, what caused the clash between the police and the protesters is hard to deduce. But a little after 10 p.m., the police arrested several protesters within a one-block radius of Pearl street at Hanover Square.
Eight Occupiers who were put in the back of a police van started chanting “this is what a police state looks like,” stomping loudly and shaking the whole van before a police officer slammed the van door shut, silencing them and effectively ending the march.
The NYPD got the situation under control quickly, and by 11:30 p.m., the streets were empty except for police still on patrol. In all, 30 protesters were arrested during May Day.