'Festive, Righteous Anger': Occupy Makes May-Day Comeback With Massive Demonstrations
Photo Credit: Occupy Wall Street Aerial Shot, NYC
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All over the world, May 1 is celebrated as International Workers' Day. Yesterday, May Day also marked the reemergence of the Occupy movement, with events in cities all over America. AlterNet's reporters were in the field -- here are their dispatches from New York and the Bay Area.
Midtown NYC, morning
Midtown is a great place for chanting; your voice echoes off the tall buildings and you can hear it blocks away. Even better for marching bands, bells and whistles. There may not actually be 99 pickets, but midtown Manhattan is clogged with them in the morning, and they're inside the heads of the people on the street--I walk past a couple discussing our "cruel," unequal society as I hurry from picket to picket.
I made it to Bryant Park a few minutes after eight in a haze of rain, and found a crowd of around 100 huddled under their umbrellas or the ones at tables in the park. The Rude Mechanical Orchestra were clustered around their instruments but not playing, and Occupiers chatted with one another.
My first picket stop was at the New York Times building, where the United Auto Workers (UAW) were picketing under a lovely awning in support of the National Organization of Legal Services Workers (UAW Local 2320). The lawyers and legal support staff of Legal Services NYC provide free legal aid to New York's low-income folks who need support--they help fight evictions, support the unemployed, work on benefits for the disabled, and more. They're facing cutbacks from their board, who want them to give back part of their healthcare benefits--not to mention cuts to the services they provide.
"We make next to nothing," a legal services worker told me, pointing out that her benefits allow her to do a low-paid service job and take care of herself and her family. None of the cuts have hit management. Their target for the day's picket was Michael Young, the vice chair of the Board of Directors at Legal Services NYC, who has been the point person in negotiating with the union.
As we stood talking, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and a small march rolled in, playing "Which Side Are You On?" and thrilling the workers, who didn't seem terribly connected at first to the larger May Day celebrations. The picket line turned into a dance party, and the band played along with chants of "Hey hey rich boy, my job is not your toy" and "We're legal services for the poor, fired up won't take no more."
From Twitter, colleagues Allison Kilkenny, John Knefel and I heard reports of arrests at the Bank of America tower, which was surrounded by barricades when we arrived but quiet at the moment, so I moved on to News Corp headquarters, where the ticker outside the building warned "Occupy plans to shut down city today, gathering at Bryant Park." It made a lovely backdrop for the lively picket line, featuring several members of OWS's Direct Action working group as well as banners and activists from Picture the Homeless, SEIU, VOCAL-NY (including Wayne Starks, whom I spoke with on Tax Day), and other local groups.
As they marched, the crowd repeated the crimes of Rupert Murdoch and News Corp--not only "Murdoch spies," a reference to the phone hacking scandal in the UK, but "News Corp called for closing HIV food pantries, housing for people with AIDS."
From News Corp, I moved on to Chase, where a small but determined band was chanting "Save our homes, modify loans!" outside the branch on 47th and Madison, but no one had made it to the main headquarters, location of many an Occupy event. I saw a march rounding the corner as I headed the other way, trying to catch a march that had left News Corp for the headquarters of the Paulson Group, one of the world's largest hedge funds, but instead I crossed paths with a small march flying an anarchist flag, singing "Ain't no power like the power of the people because the power of the people don't stop."