Marches, Melees, and Arrests During May Day Activities Across Town

Photos of the march across the Williamsburg Bridge, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, and the Wildcat March by Jared Malsin.

As documented on The Local’s liveblog, demonstrations and arrests took place across the city today as anarchists, union members, Occupy Wall Street supporters, employees of The Strand, residents of public housing in Alphabet City, and even banjo players used May Day as an occasion to protest the status quo.

The proceedings were for the most part orderly, but scuffles broke out when approximately 200 demonstrators, many dressed in black and some covering their faces, assembled in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, at Second Avenue and Houston Street, at 1 p.m. for a pre-planned, unpermitted “Wildcat March.”

When demonstrators carrying a banner tried to push past a line of police onto the crosswalk on the northeast corner of the park, officers arrested several people after throwing them to the ground. Police grabbed this reporter by his backpack and pulled him back from the scuffle while officers ordered other journalists to stand back.

mayday53Jared Malsin Wildcat March

The rest of the crowd bolted south on Forsyth Street, then ran through the streets of Chinatown and SoHo, and eventually north on Broadway toward Washington Square Park. Some protesters toppled garbage cans and pulled orange traffic cones into the street to obstruct police who pursued on scooters. Protesters scuffled with one photographer, warning him not to photograph the demonstration.

Police arrested three people at the southwest corner of Washington Square after wrestling them to the ground. One of the arrestees identified himself as Luke Richardson. Another said his name was Dylan, and a third female protester declined to give her name.

Earlier, some 200 demonstrators marched across the foot and bike paths on the Williamsburg Bridge from Brooklyn. Police arrested two women and two men whose faces were covered by bandanas. One of the arrestees identified herself as Lindsay Sweeney, 22 (the spelling of her name is uncertain).

Photos of Union Square by Susan Keyloun.

Aside from those arrests, the march reached Manhattan with few other hiccups. Protest organizers appeared intent on avoiding a situation like the one that arose last October when police arrested more than 700 people on the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge. Before Tuesday morning’s march, a speaker told the assembled crowd to stay off the road, saying, “Let’s get there safe.”

Later in the day, on Avenue D, a protest organized by East Village-based Good Old Lower East Side drew a couple dozen people – including members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union – who called out slogans such as “Stand up! Fight back! Public housing is under attack!” Referring to the New York City Housing Authority, they chanted, “We need you to understand that NYCHA’s plan is not our plan.”

Margot Seigle, a representative of GOLES, said, “This is to show that public housing residents are part of the 95 percent, but it’s also our thing to get people in the neighborhood engaged.”

mayday52Stephen Rex Brown On Avenue D.

James Espinar, a resident of the Lillian Wald Houses who identified himself as a 55-year-old unemployed Puerto Rican, complained about unwanted rent hikes. “Somewhere along the line they’re going to kick us out of here,” he said of the public housing. “I don’t think we get a say in the projects anymore.”

Asked about the protest, he said, “It’s good, but you can see how small it is. In the past they used to protest in the thousands but it went in one ear of politicians and out the other. People got tired of it.”

But shortly after 3 p.m., the scene outside of the Strand Book Store proved otherwise: about 50 people, including employees of the store and their supporters, marched in circles along the corner of Broadway and East 12th Street.

A “Strand Bookstore Labor Dispute Comics” pamphlet (on the front cover: robots saying “We will soon replace you…”) indicated the demonstration was to protest a new contract offer that meant “personal days reduced by four, fewer paid holidays, an 18-month wage freeze, and rising annual health care premiums.” The pamphlet also complained of a two-tier system “under which employees hired after the effective date of this deal will receive a substantially different and less attractive benefits package.” More information about the protesters’ complaints can be found at

mayday51Evan Bleier Outside of The Strand.

“We are here because we’re all for one and one for all,” said Vilma Torres Mulholland, vice president of U.A.W. Local 2179, members of which participated in the march.

While marches and demonstrations took place downtown, hundreds gathered in Bryant Park, where Tom Morello of activist rap-rock band Rage Against the Machine was scheduled to train a “guitarmy” at noon. Before the group of perhaps 200 guitarists left for Union Square, others marched in an orderly fashion up Sixth Avenue, north to 50th Street, and then back to Bryant Park via Fifth Avenue. Protesters chanted “Bank of America! Bad for America!” as they passed a branch of that bank and “Fox News Lies!” as they passed the Fox News building.

In Bryant Park, Mr. Morello led a group rendition of Willie Nile’s “One Guitar,” with the crowd singing, “I’m a soldier marchin’ in an army; got no gun to shoot, but what I got is one guitar.” Around 2 p.m., hundreds began marching toward Union Square, spilling completely into Fifth Avenue somewhere around 34th Street. Color-coded “squads” of acoustic guitar, banjo, and fiddle players played songs by Pete Seeger and others.

mayday50Stephen Rex Brown At Union Square Park

Shortly after 3 p.m., the group arrived in Union Square, where the crowd is now about a couple of thousand strong. Around 4 p.m., Mr. Morello took a stage on the south end of the park for a permitted concert featuring a rendition of “This Land Is Your Land” and an appearance by members of the musician’s union, Local 802. The crowd is expected to march to Wall Street at 5:30 p.m.

For more on today’s activities, see City Room’s coverage and continue to follow The Local’s live coverage. We’ll add more photos from our photographers as they come in.

Additional reporting by Scott Lynch.

Update | 5:35 p.m. According to a City Room update, police say they arrested about 30 protesters during the course of the day: “All the arrests were on disorderly conduct charges, mostly of people who were blocking traffic or resisting arrest, said Paul J. Browne, the head police spokesman.”

Update: Massive May Day March Ends Where Occupy Wall Street Began