Hundreds of Occupy protesters marched, chanted and scuffled with law enforcement officers in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and other cities around the world as they joined with labor activists to take part in a May Day “general strike” for economic equality Tuesday.
Marches and rallies drew thousands in cities from Athens to Chicago, and there were reports of violence on the West Coast, where police pepper-sprayed protesters in Oakland and Seattle. In downtown Seattle, a group of roving anarchists smashed windows of restaurants and a federal building; three have been arrested so far, according to Seattle police.
Volunteers from the National Lawyers Guild said that more than 30 had been arrested in New York as part of a day of wide-ranging demonstrations throughout the city, although police have yet to confirm that number.
In the District, Occupy D.C. protesters engaged in street theater — dumping a load of coal at the downtown branch of a bank they say finances mountaintop coal mining — and rallied in Meridian Hill Park for a march to the White House on Tuesday evening. Elsewhere in the District, a protester spray-painted “Forclosed” on a Bank of America branch downtown.
“Hopefully this is a new era,” said Rob Brune, 46, a Columbia, Md., resident who was in McPherson Square on Tuesday. “People are speaking out. People are reacting.” Regardless of the day’s turnout, he said, “I look at things in the long haul. It could take years.”
May Day protests took place in more than 125 cities in the United States, Europe and Australia on the spring day which labor unions have typically celebrated as International Workers Day. This year, the Occupy Wall Street movement joined labor unions and embraced May 1 as “A Day Without the 99 Percent,” urging students to skip school and employees not to go to work to show their support.
Impromptu pickets turned up in front of corporate branches and restaurants coast to coast, including striking ferry workers in San Francisco and service workers at Los Angeles International Airport.
In New York, protesters first gathered in Bryant Park and later filled a block-long stretch of 42nd Street near Grand Central station, picketing in front of chain restaurants and chanting “Stand up, fight back!” as drums and a marching band added to the din. Later, a group of guitarists — including Tom Morello, formerly of the group Rage Against the Machine — marched while strumming their guitars and singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”
Hundreds of labor union representatives, Occupiers and members of immigrants’ rights groups massed near Union Square by 3 p.m. for the day’s big march to Wall Street.
Occupiers said Tuesday will kick off their spring resurgence, after the cold-weather lull following the eviction of dozens of Occupy camps across the country in the late fall and winter. It is the first of what they hope will be several high-profile protests throughout the month of May, including events organized for the G-8 Summit May 18-19 at Camp David and the NATO summit in Chicago May 20-21.
As members of Occupy D.C. were gathering in Meridian Hill Park, they were to be joined by local members of unions such as the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO and the Amalgamated Transit Union, which have endorsed the event.
Marchers are set to head down 14th Street to New York Avenue to the White House, and conclude with a rally in Lafayette Square.