Occupy Surges in Lower Manhattan, Across US


Submitted by M-Bed, UWS Correspondent

You know what this is? A funeral march for capitalism. I just figured that out.” OWS Demonstrator

For all its shapes and nuances, and there were many, seen and unseen, as wave upon wave of protesters made their way down Broadway during the early evening hours of May 1, 2012 toward Wall Street, let it never be said that Occupy does not know how to throw a party.

The May 1st shindig, a seemingly endless march from Midtown Manhattan to Union Square, down Wall Street toward the Battery, celebrated diversity from every conceivable angle, a spectacle for curious onlookers, and a unified, rallying point for the now battle-hardened activists who make up Occupy Wall Street, calling themselves “the 99%.”

The marchers, though worn down after being herded by cops toward a seeming terminus in Battery Park, mostly maintained their enthusiasm throughout. For the most part it was this overflow of positive energy that grabbed, and at times monopolized, the attention of onlookers, media, even cops.

The May Day festivities featured a range of participants, from an urgent plea from Lee Thompson of sub-group Occupy the Stage, to ex-Rage Against the Machine Tom Morello's Guitarmy, to the New York Licensed Street Vendors, to Immigration Legalization groups, Organized labor, Veterans for Peace, finally, anyone with a cause or poster. All recorded by an ensemble of media and self-anointed videographers and live streamers who tracked the demonstrators (and each others) every step, and occasional missteps.

Occupy, or part of it at least, at times hunkers for action; cries of “take the park” and “whose streets, our streets” were heard as the group, congested as the parade route, constrained by police barricades, narrowed as they moved past Zuccotti Park at 7pm.

The march itself, joyous and purposeful, lacked a clear ending, the speaker or speakers who would take the stage and toast the throngs, at least providing a sense of completion to the day's events if not for the struggle itself.

And yet, it is just as obvious they didn't need it.

If Occupy's original goal was to raise awareness about income inequality in the United States, and the re-assertion of itself as a force in 2012, “Occupy 2.0,” then mission accomplished.

Amidst all the mic checks, the pros and counters, tension with the cops, lies the inescapable fact that they are here. They have not gone away since the inception of the movement in October. And it is clear from the May Day rally – they will not cease.

Occupy's zenith on May Day arrives between 530-6 pm EDT as hundreds of onlookers stop shopping, emerge from windows and rooftops, onto the steps of Soho boutiques and eatery windows to..watch? Commiserate?

Impossible to say. A young man looks pensive, as though he disapproves. But you can't tell what people are thinking as they process the theater before them. “I just thought I should be here” says Tyrus. “I was at Zuccotti for the first five days. I know some of them. I can't say how I feel. Just that I should be here, today, watching it.”

In spite of the celebratory atmosphere and the respite it creates from a normal work day, not all are pro-occupy, but neither are many against. “What gives them the right,” a man asks loudly, to no one in particular. And no one answers. And while the Occupiers would surely answer “the constitution,” it is not apparent at all what gives them the right.

They can because they think they can. Possunt, quia posse videntur.

Other Highlights include:

The non-stop drumming and conga line, culminating in a raucous, bring-the-house down drumming stomp in front of the Wall Street bull as cops do nothing but look on behind barricades.

Guardian UK mentions that Occupy and Labor “linked up.” True enough, eventually. Initially they were somewhat separate with supportive locals such as CWA 1180 (full disclosure : CWA is the labor organization to which UWS belongs), LIUNA, And the Transport Workers Union grouping in solidarity, their colors uniform, on a nearby side-street before joining the march from Union Square Park to Battery down Broadway

Running into the high-profile Tax Dodgers on a side street, who need to perform a quick calculation of travel time through nearby side-streets in order to make a sufficiently dramatic entrance. They are cheered as they go, to which one of them, playing the part, responds “get a job...in China!”

Another passerby wants to know who they are, to which one replies, we're supposed to be the 1 percent, the “companies and super-rich who don't pay taxes.” Oh, so it's ironic says the passerby. Right says the tax Dodger.

The notorious Occupy drum circle, pummeling their hypnotic rhythmic beats in unison near the Bull on Wall Street, except this time the only neighbors are the empty financial firms close by...its possible the drummers outshine even Morello's “guitarmy” who strum soulfully and slowly as they make their way down Broadway, first during the height of the afternoon march and later down Broadway past Wall Street.

As for Morello himself, the sometimes rocker's words inspire, even more than his music, as he cites the example of a South Korean workers union that organized “for a better world, the kind of world I want to leave to my children,” he tells the excited crowd. Kudos also to Morello for recognizing 2012 as the 100th Birthday of Woody Guthrie, who he says would headline the show were he still here. Morello leads a sing-a-long to his “Worldwide Rebel Songs” as temperatures rise in Union Square at 230PM.

The perpetual questions “what's next” and “is anything going on,” hang over the rally. As the day progresses, they become less theoretical. The natural gravitation is toward action, read : confrontation with the police who for the most part restrain themselves to rigidly enforcing the permit.

At Canal St., the great intersection, a better sense of the extent of it. Protesters as far as the eye can see from behind, and for several traffic lights as Broadway slopes slightly up toward the Woolworth building. At the opening at Canal Street there are rays of sunshine and the full extent of the march is revealed. Current estimates list the protesters.

Suddenly, just South of Canal, there's action as cops corral one demonstrator and chase another down a side street. It gets tense as the rally in front turns around to face the cops, briefly sandwiching them between two groups of marchers. It could get ugly but the mood is still mostly positive and somehow, the crisis passes. The cops drag the protester away. The march rolls on.

Nikios Wallace, 23, works retail in Soho and stands on his step, watching. He's a retail worker, not an owner, largely sympathetic to occupy. “I know some people there” he says, but allows that he is now disappointed with them. When asked why he says “you know, it got cold and they went away for the winter. If you really believe in something, if you're really fighting for something, you stay.” How many of these marchers he asks truly believe - or are they just along for the ride?

The police presence intensifies as marchers make their way down Broadway toward Wall Street and the Bull. Someone gets arrested for jumping the fence which brings cheers, then approbation, as the cops tackle him. This guy apparently later kicks out a cruiser window (see below).

A strange drone-looking device with two red laser-type lights hovers over the demonstrators near the Bull at 9PM. It gets caught in a tree and the crowd cheers.

Officer J.R. Butler of the 122nd Precinct in Staten Island is willing to talk. He normally sits behind a desk, he says, in a suit and tie, and had to “find the uniform.” Perhaps like many of the cops, he understands the concerns of the 99 percent but finds they “go about it the wrong away.” Look at all the money is costs he says. When asked what the protesters would say to that he says he knows, they would say the money is being misused.

At midnight, confrontation looms as unmarked NYPD vans and cars roll up to Zuccotti at closing time. Live Streamer Tim's endurance is tremendous as he stays live right up to midnight as more and more NYPD vehicles show up. Time Looks like its arrest-time for anyone who stays. The white shirts are out, and coordinating the blue shirts.

The question, so what happens now, however, remains...and as always the choices abound.

Elsewhere :

Washington Post has a tight summary of the days events in DC.

Eyes move West as the clock runs out on May 1st. A frequent Occupy chant heard is “all day, all week, Occupy Wall Street.” Will they?

As usual, the shit hits the fan in Oakland Oaktownpirate carries the live stream past midnight US EDT, featuring cops racing after protesters, all being streamed live over the internet here

NY1 has some excellent video shots as well as a fairly balanced summary of the days events in Lower Manhattan, including interviews with CWA 1180 members who make the march with Occupy.