By Nathan James
As the warm, sunny skies of Spring return to New York City, so, too did the Occupy Wall Street movement, which joined the International Workers’ Day protests in Union Square Park.
The park, a traditional gathering place for public protest in the city, saw one of its largest May Day rallies in many years Tuesday afternoon, with labor unions, activist groups, Occupy Wall Street, and hundreds of ordinary New Yorkers railing against social inequities.
The 4 PM rally drew organizations as diverse as the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU), which represents the city’s bus and subway employees, to Make The Road NY, a Brooklyn social-justice group that encompasses Gays And Lesbians Of Bushwick Empowered (GLOBE), an LGBT-rights advocate. Dozens of speakers and musicians took the stage, decrying the gross concentration of American wealth in the hands of “the [top] 1%” of society, the widening gap between billionaires and the average family, and the unprecedented political power of large corporations.
Following the rally, the demonstrators marced down Broadway to the Stock Exchange on Broad Street, flanked by hundreds of NYPD officers who, according to Chief of Department Joseph Esposito, “did practice exercises last week to prepare for today.” The day’s events began in Midtown’s Bryant Park, with morning rallies at the adjacent Bank Of America tower, and at Citibank. Throughout the course of the day, police made only 30 arrests, mostly for minor offenses such as disorderly conduct.
Most demonstrators said they were focused on “getting the message across,” according to Jennifer Kenney, 23, of Cypress Gardens. “We don’t want to fight the police, who, after all, are also part of the 99%,” she added. A largely peaceful crowd of approximately 1,700 made the march to the Financial District, and thousands more were in Lower Manhattan as marchers arrived. Subway service on the Nassau Street line was interrupted for approximately one hour, “due to crowd conditions”, according to New York City Transit.
In stark contrast to the October and November clashes between police and Occupy Wall Street campers in Zuccotti Park, no oppen skirmishes were reported in the streets during today’s march. One protestor was taken into custody after throwing paint on a police cruiser, and another bit NYPD Chief Thomas Galati, who commands the Intelligence Division, on the finger, and was charged with assault. The rally at the Stock Exchange extended into the early evening. Occupy Wall Street spokespeople said today’s demonstrations were only the beginning of a summer full of them.