Occupy Wall Street made a comeback for May Day as they teamed up with organized labor unions, illegal immigrants and other advocacy groups in an all day protest that began in Bryant Park and ended on the streets surrounding the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial at 55 Water St. in Lower Manhattan.
The protest resulted in eight arrests witnessed by The Ticker, with several others reported by members of the crowd. While most arrests were fairly peacefully executed, there was a report of one protester having his face bashed into the street by NYPD officers at around 3 p.m. before being carted off in a police vehicle with his head wrapped in bandages.
Other than an initial clash between police and protesters at Union Square as the crowd was beginning to move south, the majority of protesters passed the crowds of officers that lined Broadway without the slightest confrontation. This changed once the march reached its southern destination, where most organized labor groups split off from the General Assembly of the OWS movement, who then directed the protest to the park at 55 Water St.
At first, there was only a small smattering of a few dozen protesters that sat in the amphitheater on the southwest end of the park, but as the Occupiers took to twitter, more and more filed in until it was filled to capacity.
As protesters continued to arrive, the NYPD beefed up its own presence surrounding the park. They were preparing to throw out the Occupiers who planned to overstay the 10 p.m. curfew imposed on New York public parks. At the same time, there were tactical meetings taking place amongst protest organizers who were spent a good deal of time trying to decide amongst themselves if they wanted to make a stand against police to hold the space or peacefully exit.
Originally, Veteran’s for Peace had volunteered to take the front-lines of any clash with police to hold the park, but most of their attending members were outside of the park when police blocked the entrance, throwing a major wrench into the Occupiers’ plans.
At one point, a proposal was made to tie protest signs and tarps to the trees and light posts surrounding the amphitheater to create a barrier against police. As the time grew closer and closer to 10 p.m., however, it became clear that there were only a small handful of people interested in holding the park.
When police did announce over a megaphone that protesters needed to leave the area, there was a moment when it looked as if the stand was going to be made after all. But following a few moments of tension, the protesters relented and turned to the streets.
It was when the protest moved northeast to Pearl St. and Hanover Square that tensions boiled over. The police response was swift, severe and well orchestrated, something most Occupiers didn’t appear to be prepared for. Every time it seemed anarchy was about to overtake the streets of Lower Manhattan, instigators were corralled by police and removed from the ranks of marchers.
At around 11 p.m., after having been led in a circle by NYPD officers who were at the head of the march, the Occupiers slowly lost their edge and began to disperse. By 11:30 p.m. the area was completely empty of Occupiers, and only the massive police presence remained in the area. Traffic noise and the sound of distant helicopters gradually replaced the steady throb of chants and marching drums that were central to the cadence of Occupy May Day.