May Day demos offer prelude to summer awakening

BY ZACH WILLIAMS  |  A broad range of progressive activists staged a series of May Day demonstrations in an effort to further their mission of what they consider to be crucial social, political and economic change.

Labor unions, immigration rights groups and Occupy Wall Street comprise the core coalition that organized the May 1 events throughout New York City. Activists expressed outrage throughout Manhattan against bank bail-outs, corporate influence on politics, American militarism, income inequality and other issues in the form of marches, rallies, teach-ins and even a “guitarmy” of about 100 guitar players. Thousands of demonstrators participated in an afternoon rally at Union Square and a march all the way down Broadway to the vicinity of Bowling Green Park.

As of press time, only a handful of arrests were recorded and no major disruptions had occurred, despite the occupiers’ request for tunnels and bridges entering Manhattan to be shut down.

The citywide events were part of a national effort that also included demonstrations in Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland and other cities across the country. The protesters’ hope was that the “day without the 99 percent” would mark the beginning of renewed efforts from the O.W.S. movement to reclaim the national attention they enjoyed last fall following the establishment of the group’s original encampment in Zuccotti Park.

“We’ve lost our democracy. We’ve lost our civil rights,” said Carol Gay, 64, of New Jersey who has participated in the movement since September. “Everything that we were supposed to stand for, being a democracy, is just a sham now.”

Gay, a veteran activist, said that taking direct action against Wall Street can lead to victories both large and small, including a recent foreclosure intervention that saved an elderly woman from eviction. Gay said that staging large, disruptive actions are necessary in order to get everyday citizens, government officials and corporate workers alike to respond to the movement.

“I think we need to be a little crazy and out of control sometimes, [otherwise] they don’t listen,” said Gay.

O.W.S. protesters who formed a spur-of-the-moment occupation early in the morning managed to bring about 1,000 people to Bryant Park. Picket lines quickly materialized outside branches of Bank of America, Chase Manhattan and News Corporation’s midtown offices. The occupiers also organized a free “university” workshop at Madison Square Park, which featured teach-ins on capitalism and the history of May Day among other topics.

The afternoon rally at Union Square attracted scores of activists to an event that featured speakers from throughout the coalition as well as musical performances by Tom Morello, Immortal Technique and other artists.

By about 6 p.m., activists had begun to trickle out of the square and march down Broadway. While labor unions and other traditional progressive organizations focused their mobilizing efforts on the permitted rally and march, ‘occupiers’ staged less-conventional actions that quickly caught the attention of the scores of NYPD present at demonstrations.

The ‘guitarmy’ group accompanied a non-permitted march of several hundred occupiers in the afternoon. Shortly after the demonstrators left Bryant Park, some of them attempted to swarm the intersection of 33rd Street and Fifth Avenue. Dozens of police shoved protesters and members of the media back onto the sidewalk, and then blocked a crosswalk, which led to a further scattering of demonstrators as they headed toward a rally taking place at Union Square.

Activists vowed that May Day was only the beginning of ongoing demonstrations that would persist through the summer.

Nick Nelson, 24, a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan who attended his first Occupy protest this week, said the movement has already helped to alter the national political discourse.

Regardless of whether or not the movement survives, he said, Nelson is optimistic about what the future holds.

“Even if it does fail,” he said, “It’s setting the stage for something bigger.”

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4 Responses to May Day demos offer prelude to summer awakening

  1. Crucial Change? Really! What they are trying to achieve is a) communism and b) chaos in the streets just as Hitler's henchmen did. It's not going to work here. Everyone is well aware of the fact that Soros and the unions are funding this garbage.One thing though, this does show us how miserably our education system has failed these idiots.

  2. I do like the manner in which you have framed this specific problem and it does supply us some fodder for thought. On the other hand, through what precisely I have seen, I just simply trust when the remarks pile on that folks remain on point and in no way get started on a tirade of the news of the day. Anyway, thank you for this excellent piece and though I do not really go along with the idea in totality, I respect your standpoint.

  3. dear costas Of cursoe you have the right to pose as many questions as you want. I ll never get tired answering them, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart (oh god this sounds soooooo Glen Medeiro) ok, i ll tell you what. the post was written cause I felt αηδιασμένος (is it “appaled” the right word; I am not sure…) from all the bitchin an fightin and all that for which some bloggers are “famous” and which has resulted in a polarasation that really depresses me… it might sound stupid but that is what i feel… i swear to you, I had in my mind MANY bloggers when I wrote it. I know it was very bitter and acidee and κακοπροαίρετο but it refferes to a “blogbehaviour” if you know what I mean and not to personalities. and then he thought that i was reffering to him, and then he took the whole thing out of the blogworld and that really pissed me off. (“μετανιώνω που σου έδωσα ένα πιάτο φαγητό από το υστέρημά μου;” That is so disrespectfull for himself ) There is a Dimitris I know and I treasure in my heart – but this person has nothing to do with Dimitris the blogger… I am getting really sad with all this you know… sorry… :-((

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