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4 May Day Stories the Corporate Media Missed While Fixating On Obama's College Girlfriend

A number of remarkable things happened on May 1. So why is the media so bored with social protest?

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But on Tuesday in New York City, organizers from OWS, racial justice, immigrants' rights groups, labor and elsewhere made one of the most concerted efforts I've ever seen to not step on each others' toes and embrace each others' issues. As Julianne Escobedo Shepherd noted in her report for AlterNet, in Union Square, organized labor and immigrants' rights group shouted each other out from the stage, warmly and genuinely.

This atmosphere extended to the streets."I was marching alongside a group of anarchists, and a few feet ahead of us was an immigrant rights group. Everyone was feeling the same sort of energy," said Russell. Molly Knefel, who co-hosts a political podcast with her brother John, and spent the whole day live-tweeting, had the same impression: the day offered something for everyone. "Certain actions were meant to calm, safe, family-friendly, immigrant friendly," she said.

Story #4: Organizing peacefully without hierarchy is not easy.

If you've ever tried to organize a big event for your workplace, school, charity or religious institution, you know it's not easy. Now try imagining doing that--except organizing hundreds of events on the same day with a loose group of people who refuse to appoint leaders, don't have a hierarchy, and let everyone speak his or her mind. I've often thought that journalists don't understand the hard work of grassroots organizing, and the number of forces that have to triumph for it to be successful. 

To both Molly Knefel and Kathleen Russell, the story of the day was that the OWS organizers and their allies pulled it off and managed to stay fairly respectful while sticking to their own organizing model and working with established groups.

"There were multiple actions all over the city, all of which were quite-well attended and well-organized. There was Williamsburg bridge march, there was a high-school walkout, there were teach-ins in Madison Square Park and all of the actions in and around Bryant park," says Knefel. "It was a day full of many diverse actions that also had a variety of targets and a variety of appeal to different groups.”

Russell, who has participated in Women Occupying Wall Street all winter, was equally impressed with how "smoothly" the day went. "It was one of the first actions that I’ve been involved in in which all the people working to make the action work on the ground were really happy with how it went off," she said, noting that the safe spaces created for immigrants' rights groups and families were by and large respected. "There was just a lot of coordination, communication and solidarity."

The peaceful outcome of the day certainly makes the pre-dawn NYPD raids seem absurd.

Both Russell and Knefel were unsurprised, but disappointed in the media coverage they saw when they woke up sore and exhausted on May 2. Russell, for one, is eager for activists to work harder at creating their own media and messaging--with the same energy and intensity they focus on direct actions.

Perhaps that's the best approach in the face of an indifferent media. Knefel said, "I keep joking that it’s going to be June and people are still going to be saying 'it’s going to be cold soon and they’ll go away.'”


Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published at the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jezebel and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @fellowette and find her work at

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