Thousands take city in Occupy Wall Street's May Day protests
Thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters joined with labor unions and immigrant groups yesterday, swarming city streets in a series of marches that winded all over Manhattan for the movement's May Day spring comeback.
The day of rallies, culminating in a march downtown with more than 10,000 participants, illustrated the continued frustration of many workers and protesters over what they say is income inequality, and aggravation with a political system influenced by corporate money. Demonstrations ranged from peaceful to chaotic, with at least 30 people arrested throughout the day on charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, criminal mischief and assaulting an officer, according to the NYPD.
Soggy weather gave a slow start to early marches, which began around 8 a.m., but momentum kicked up around noon with large gatherings at Bryant Park and along the Williamsburg Bridge, and protesters from points all over the city eventually converged at the massive meetup in Union Square around 3 p.m.
Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello led a "guitarmy" march from Bryant Park to Union Square as crowds sang songs including "This Land is Your Land," and later a large stage in Union Square allowed speakers to address topics from immigration to income equality.
The protests were generally peaceful for most of the day, though scuffles broke out as people poured into Union Square. In once incident, occupiers took over the street near 33rd Street and Fifth Avenue – during a part of the march that did not have a permit – and police on scooters corralled them back onto the sidewalk by the time the marchers reaching Madison Square Park, sometimes using aggressive and forceful tactics. Police helicopters flew above for much of the day.
A fringe group of "Black Bloc" protesters, did cause some trouble, attacking photographers and media, with some reports saying they were trying to steal cameras. The press team for OWS has condemned this group and said they are not a part of Occupy.
Councilman Jumaane Williams, who has been arrested at OWS events, spoke at Union Square before the protesters headed south, saying "we're not going away."
"The message is not gone, the message is not dead, neither is the movement," he said.
Ty Hailey, 34, quit his job as an optician in March to join the movement. During yesterday's march downtown he held a sign that read "Greed is evil," and said the day was "just what I hoped for."
"I am standing in solidarity with 99% of America. Today we are showing in great numbers how strong we are," he said.
Hailey added: "We have changed a lot of the dialogue nationwide."
As of the late evening the enormous parade of occupiers stretched from Union Square down to around Worth Street, and the protests were set to wrap up around 8 p.m. with a rally near at 2 Broadway and a possible after party in Bryant Park.
Mark Bray, a member of OWS' press team, said the day turned out to be everything they had hoped for.
"We're thrilled. This really shows our connection with unions and immigrant rights groups are strong," he said.
"This shows that this is going to be around for a while," Bray added. "We want this to become a fixture of the American political system."