4 May Day Stories the Corporate Media Missed While Fixating On Obama's College Girlfriend
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Story #2: Outsize police presence and infiltration, scary new police tactics.
Justin Remer, the roommate of Joe Ryan, one of those arrested in these raids, told AlterNet he was awakened at 6 in the morning with a flashlight in his face by NYPD. They asked him about his May Day plans before Ryan--who had little to do with Occupy--was arrested on a six-year-old open container violation. A third roommate, Zachary Dempster, who seemed to be the actual target of the invasion and questioning by the cops, had been arrested at an Occupy-related party this winter.
Even though the six NYPD officers were quizzing the apartment's residents about May Day plans, Remer told me, they had to keep up the facade that they were there for the old warrant. "I don’t know what they were hoping to find," Remer said. "It definitely felt like they’d found an excuse to come and give the impression that 'we’ll be watching.'”
This tactic, Gawker's Adrian Chen noted, is something the Bloomberg administration has done in the past, and gotten sued for, during and up to the 2004 Republican convention.
-Sexual harassment, plucking protesters from the crowd: Tuesday's demonstrations saw even worse police activity than the early morning break-ins, including the now-infamous "snatching and grabbing" of random protesters from the crowd for arrest, a fear-based approach that has replaced the less media-friendly "kettling." There's another linked tactic at work here: David Graber has written a harrowing piece about "the apparently systematic use of sexual assault against women protesters."
-Overly large police presence, unnecessary corralling of march: At Gothamist, Christopher Robbins noted that "police forced the protesters to backtrack down Union Square West and only permitted participants to leave from two exits. The crush of the crowd combined with the heat made the waiting unbearable." During my exit from Union Square, a cop told complaining protesters that if they let the "50,000" people through more than two exits at once it would be "chaos." But there was more chaos caused by people, including children and the elderly, being unable to cross into and out of the area. This was a tactic used to intimidate and frustrate those attending the peaceful mass rally in the afternoon.
Overriding all these tactics was a huge police presence, completely outsized based on the number of demonstrators. Natasha Lennard summed up my feelings when she wrote, "The NYPD is the seventh largest standing army in the world, and on the evening of May 1, New York felt was a city under military siege — it was terrifying."
All of these tactics are not about keeping the peace: they are about demoralization, fear, intimidation and inconveniencing protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.
Story #3: Historic coalition between labor, students and immigrants.
To me, the seemingly disparate groups that came together comprised the big, unreported story of the day--a Left that looks different from its past.
Anyone who follows Occupy knows that there have been big disagreements at public meetings, and people who have walked away from the movement since its inception. Yet through it all, all winter, the hard work of coalition-building took place. In previous iterations of the Left, working-class labor unions have been unallied, if not outright hostile to radical students and young people. And similarly, racism and competition over jobs has divided organized labor from immigrants, documented and undocumented alike.