What May Happen on May Day: Wildcat Marches, Bridge Blockades, and a ‘Guitarmy’

May 1 Union SquareSuzanne Rozdeba

May Day is almost upon us, and with it will come a citywide carnival of Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

But what will May Day actually look like in New York City and in the East Village? Will we see orderly marchers proceeding peacefully between police barricades? Or will Wall Street burn, as the graffiti on Avenue A warns? Or should we expect, as Jerry Rubin predicted for the 1972 Democratic National Convention, “ten thousand naked hippies” marching on Wall Street?

Asked to predict the size of the demonstrations, Occupy organizer Marisa Holmes, 25, told The Local that May 1 will be on par with the movement’s fall protests or larger. “It won’t be a general strike but it will be substantial,” said the freelance film editor and graduate student at Hunter College.

On Wednesday night, Ms. Homes facilitated a 50-person planning meeting in the basement of Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union on 14th Street. She said the Occupy Wall Street group in charge of planning for May Day has endorsed a range of actions. “Some of those actions are legal and some of them aren’t.” However, she said, “We aren’t officially planning anything that includes property damage.”

anarchyDaniel Maurer Anarchist graffiti on Avenue A

Whether the situation turns violent “depends a lot on the police presence,” Ms. Holmes argued, citing the March 17 clearing of Zuccotti Park which resulted in dozens of arrests.

The Police Department, of course, disagrees. Spokesman Paul Browne said, “The NYPD accommodates lawful protest, and arrests those who break the law.”

In an e-mail to The Local, Mr. Browne wrote, “Some OWS elements have proposed unlawful activity, but the labor umbrella group seeking a permit for a march and rally has attracted thousands of lawful participants to similar events over the past seven years.”

To help you plan your May Day, The Local has grouped the activities into three categories ranging from non-confrontational protests coordinated with police, to secret and potentially militant actions. Here they are:

Non-confrontational actions

May Day

This category includes a slew of peaceful protests that are publicized in advance. Some, including a 4 p.m. rally in Union Square and a 5:30 p.m. march from Union Square to the Wall Street bull, have been coordinated in advance with police. The vast majority of protesters will participate in these activities, which have been endorsed by a big tent coalition of labor unions and Occupy sub-groups.

Also in this category is the “pop-up occupation” in Bryant Park, featuring “free food, a free market, free services, skill-shares, workshops, teach-ins, speak-outs, public art, performances, discussions, and trainings.” At noon, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine will run a guitar workshop for an “Occupy Guitarmy,” which will later march to Union Square.

Confrontational, pre-announced actions


One notch up on the militancy scale, this category includes confrontational protests, some of which are not permitted by police, but peaceful enough that their organizers felt comfortable publicizing them in advance. These are acts of civil disobedience that will result in arrests. While many of these protests have been organized by Occupiers, not all of them have been endorsed by the central May Day Planning Group.

The most consequential of these actions may well be a plan to “block one or more Manhattan-bound bridges or tunnels” on Tuesday morning. The anonymous statement announcing this action promises: “we will create the biggest shut down the city of New York has ever seen.” Asked about this protest, organizer Marisa Holmes said, “I’ve heard rumors about the bridge-and-tunnel action but that’s not something we’ve actually planned as the May Day Planning Group.”

Another of these actions is a “Wildcat March,” the organizers of which are calling for a “massive unpermitted march” at 1 p.m. at Sara D. Roosevelt Park, on the corner of Second and Houston Streets. According to Ms. Holmes, this march was planned by a group of anarchists, not the May Day Planning Group.

Wild Cat March flyer

Also in this category is a planned set of “99 Pickets” outside banks and other corporations across the city. While the full list of targets isn’t public, Ms. Holmes said, “some pickets are legal, some are a little more militant.” It was this action that led one security consultant, in remarks reported by Bloomberg, to compare banks to elk being hunted by the “wolves” of Occupy.


Unannounced militant actions

These are the “unknown unknowns”: possible militant acts organized by radical “affinity groups” that are not making their plans known in advance. There’s no way to know what the berserkers are planning until they hit the streets.

While virtually no information is publicly available about these demonstrations, a posting on the site Anarchist News provides a flavor of potential things to come. “MAKE TOTAL DESTROY,” an anonymous activist writes. “BLACK CLOTHES, NYC DEETS TO FOLLOW.”

Asked about these sorts of protests, Ms. Holmes said, “I can’t comment on that. There are affinity groups that are planning their own options. They’re autonomous.”