May Day protests hit the US from coast to coast (PHOTOS)
Something changed this year, however, after thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of American cities from coast to coast.
The spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement was alive and well once again in New York City on May 1. After months of relative slacking, thousands of activists were back to the streets of the Big Apple and with them came droves of new protesters demanding a change.
“Our numbers keep getting bigger and growing, and they are going to keep growing after today.”
From a stage at Union Square in New York, NY, that was just one of affirmations preached through a microphone to roughly 2,000 people in the heart of Manhattan. Although the calls for a city-wide general strike were not answered to the degree that organizers had hoped, the May Day protests in New York City certainly proved something: without a doubt, the spirit of the Occupy movement, thought over by some, is alive and well.
Occupy Wall Street activist is arrested by New York City police during a May Day demonstration in New York (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)
After a winter hibernation punctuated by occasional picketing and a peppering of protests in other locales from coast to coast, the Occupy Wall Street movement was fully rejuvenated in New York on Tuesday as thousands marched the streets in support of a message that encouraged equality for one and for all in the United States. Although some critics dismissed the demonstrations that began in the US last fall as a flash in the pan, polarizing topics ranging from workers’ rights to the abolishment of corporate greed and an end to the deportation of immigrants searching for the American Dream brought thousands together in New York and across the world on Tuesday.
Some are guaranteed to write-off this May First as a disorganized gathering of jobless fools and the ill informed. But speaking just for the swarms that congregated across Manhattan in places like Bryant Park and Union Square on Tuesday, a message to bring home for sure this year is that the fire underneath the OWS movement has been reignited.
By the early afternoon, demonstrators had already gathered in at least four major public parks in Manhattan to engage in teach-ins, workshops and peaceful protests. Outside Bank of America branches, Chase Bank offices and the headquarters of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., others picketed with signs and slogans to show their dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in the United States.
And while past OWS-aligned protests have relied on rallies demanding a reform for the US financial system, Tuesday’s demonstrations largely demanded a change elsewhere in America. From Madison Square Park to benches on Fifth Avenue beneath the buzzing of an ever-circulating helicopter, protesters echoed a demand for equality within the American workforce far and wide.
"Without labor, we do not produce things. That's kind of why this started,"Pete Dutro, a 37-year-old resident of Brooklyn, tells the Associated Press."The labor conditions were not good back then, people were being exploited and you had a huge disparity in income. And that's what we're facing right now."
Demonstrators both young and old echoed those sentiments as they marched the streets of Manhattan on Tuesday, where to say that the day’s events ‘were not your parents’ protest’ would be a downright lie.
Heather Cunningham, 36, tells RT that she has participated in a May Day demonstration every year, no matter where she is in the world. In the past that commitment has led her to demonstrating in locales ranging from San Francisco and Oakland, California down to Mexico. This year, however, she is in New York City and says that what she’s witnessing is unlike anything she’s seen experienced before.
“Every May Day I take off work and get in the streets in whatever city that I’m at,”she says. Never has that brought her to a place like Manhattan, where every bench and spot of shade at Union Square Park is occupied this time.
“There’s more of a hodgepodge of people here,”she tells RT.“People form all over come to New York — it’s not just New Yorkers. People come form far and wide just to be here, which is pretty impressive. It’s the greatest city in the world, so why not?”
Occupy Wall Street protesters crowd Union Square Park during a demonstration in New York City (REUTERS/Mike Segar)
That isn’t to say that Tuesday’s events were without incident. Although rallies in New York have been peaceful for the most part, arrests were reported across Manhattan after altercations between protesters and police escalated to a breaking point.
By sundown, events on the East Coast were widely reported as being overly calm, but out west where the day was still young, news developed out of Oakland, California that cops used tear gas on protesters demonstrating in a city intersection. Further north, The Seattle Times reported arrests stemming from rumored violence on the streets there, although law enforcement was reluctant to release a number for those detained still early in the afternoon.
"We're in the middle of stuff right now,"Seattle police Capt. Joe Kessler tells The Times."We have a few people who have created damage."
On the other side of the country, though, the damage done in New York thus far seems to have targeted something entirely different: the status-quo.
Occupy demonstrators write slogans on a window of a Bank of The West building during May Day protests in Oakland (REUTERS/Stephen Lam)