Gearing up for May 1st


[A sign hangs from an apartment building off of Union Square, with the words “Strike” and “May 1st” on it; taken on Sunday night April 29th, 2012 by Patrick deHahn]

Wondering where Occupy Wall Street went? Just wait for Tuesday.

May 1st, along with the May Day and International Workers Day history, is a day the movement hopes will bring the United States’ revolution back into the spotlight as participants will attempt to put on a general strike and nationwide demonstrations.

According to the OccupyWallSt.org site, up to 125 cities have planned activities for “A Day without the 99%” and to fight for “economic justice.” Major cities taking action other than New York are the Bay Area cities in California, Seattle, and Chicago, the site says. There are international events planned, however, they do state that this is International Workers Day and that not every event will be “Occupy” sponsored.

New York events

Many, many events are planned for OWS in New York, both permitted and unpermitted city events. First off, people will congregate in Bryant Park to pull off a “pop-up occupation” like its encampment in Zuccotti without the tents and more about the tabling, teach-ins, etc. At this set-up, they will also split up and try to do “99 pickets” where they will do “creative disruptions” at area corporations, banks, companies, organizations, etc. They will do all this at Bryant Park from 8 AM – 2 PM.

There are numerous events occurring at the same time the congregation at Bryant Park will be happening, including a high-school walkout, an university pop-up occupation and more.

There will be a “wildcat march” at Sara D. Roosevelt Park, an unpermitted event.

At 2 PM, they will march from Bryant Park to Union Square. This is both a unpermitted and permitted march – two sites are conflicting the confirmation of whether or not it’s permitted. This march will include Occupy Guitarmy adding music to the march saying “You can’t arrest a song. You can’t beat a song with battons.”

The march from Bryant Park as well as other “convergences” and “contingents” will all gather at Union Square for a permitted rally. There will be performers Tom Morello, Dan Deacon, Immortal Technique, Das Racist, Bobby Sanabria and special guests at the rally. This is expected to go from 4 PM – 5:30 PM. They want to essentially pull off a mass gathering at Union Square with all the unions and organizations participating.

And then at 5:30 PM, all rally members will hold a “solidarity march” from Union Square to the Wall Street area. This is also permitted and will end at 2 Broadway, which seems to be off Bowling Green and Battery Park, quite close to the Wall Street bull. There are more performers expected to perform at the culmination of the march.

At around 8 PM, there is an “Occupy Wall Street after party” planned and under the event description, it only says that “details are forthcoming…”

Occupy tactics

From observing and following Occupy Wall Street tactics, there are quite a few that protesters may use at the “99 picket” events, during the marches if things get chaotic and definitely for whatever the after party plans are. All these tactics have been tested and tried out during the Friday “spring training” marches on Wall Street the past few months.

One is the “going civilian” tactic where marchers are stuck with a large and persistent police presence, they all split up and go into all different directions to meet again as a mass in a different target location. They’ve done this while marching to Wall Street and separating to meet in time to do the “human gong” in lieu of the NYSE closing bell.

Another is having multiple groups. This is OWS only trying to make NYPD’s job harder and they do multiple things with separate groups in different locations doing all kinds of events. They will utilize this at the “99 picket” Tuesday morning.

There are many tactics that OWS has implemented and tried out all last year and during this year’s “spring training.” However, one I found the most interesting was what I saw on this past Friday, April 27th, was utilizing a smart communication system. What they did was have separate Twitter accounts for each “picket” and they would tweet out vital and important alerts on NYPD updates and on what they’re doing, as well as if there were any arrests.

What was also interesting was that the Twitter account @OWSTactical had tweeted before the “spring training” event Friday. (The tweets are now deleted. I couldn’t screen-capture them as I read them on my phone.) They said the “picket” Twitter accounts were run by communications looking “from above.” What this means, I don’t really know. Were people in the buildings above, were they watching live streams (most likely, as there were live streams assigned to each “picket”), or were they actually on the ground with the groups themselves?

Either way, this is a tactic that they may use on May 1st. When asked, the official @OccupyWallStNYC account said to follow @OWSTactical and @OWSMayDay for good tweets on Tuesday. Here’s another photo of the tactic here:

NYPD and City preparations

A lot is up in the air about Tuesday and these uncertainties are not all participant-oriented, some of these concerns include the NYPD and New York City actions. From what Occupy has experienced with the NYPD in the past, the movement is cautious of what kind of force the city government may send out on the streets.

Village Voice’s Nick Pinto (@macfathom) obtained some exclusive photos of the city police department “training” for what seems to be the May Day events. He shared that they were training cops on Randall’s Island with what looked like “mock protesters.”

The first photo (L) shows mounted cops with riot gear on.And the second photo (R) shows more police drills involving riot gear and masses of police officers. 

   

Pinto then later confirmed that this did indeed happen and that NYPD has been training for mass protests such as the May 1st events.

What this means for Occupy Wall Street is that the NYPD is preparing for mass congregations and for whatever may happen Tuesday. What the movement doesn’t know is how civil and how big the police force may be, what they only know is that they are training and preparing Ray Kelly’s police force and Mayor Bloomberg’s “seventh largest army in the world.”

Village Voice’s Sam Levin (@samtlevin) talked to New York City’s mayor Mike Bloomberg about May Day among other things related to OWS. This is what he said, in short:

More from Bloomberg on OWS and May Day NYPD tactics:

“We are prepared for everything we can think of all the time. Our tactics are something that we don’t talk about in advance for obvious reasons.”

Bloomberg continued, “People have a right to protest. We will protect that right. They don’t have a right to disrupt other people and keep other people from protesting or just going about their business.”

Bloomberg also shared his opinion on protesting:

There’s even more here at Levin’s article.

Conclusion

Well, that’s all there is to preparing for May 1st, Tuesday, Occupy Wall Street’s nationwide general strike and demonstration events. In relation to New York City and Wall Street’s city location, this will be the central part of the OWS’s events on May 1st, both nationally and internationally. This day could prove the movement’s staying power and large support if all goes well.

It wouldn’t be a huge event if there weren’t any uncertainties. A few include whether or not people will actually come, and how big those numbers will be. Another is if the day will be labeled a success or a failure – and what will happen on May 2nd and beyond.

The movement and onlookers will only have to wait and see on Tuesday. I’ll be covering it.

UPDATES:

Here is a reportedly official NYPD document on tomorrow’s OWS May Day events tomorrow – Google Doc: http://bit.ly/ID41C7 NOW CONFIRMED.

There are calls to action to shut down city bridges and tunnels, will they actually happen? Here are the sites and locations they want participants to take on: http://bit.ly/ID51Gv

And last but not least, there are unconfirmed reports that NYPD officers have been visiting activists’ homes in New York City ahead of tomorrow’s actions. Take note that this is unconfirmed and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Recap: My night reporting from the “We are Travyon Martin” chaotic New York City march

Wednesday night March 21st 2012 brought a planned “Million Hoodie March” in honor of Trayvon Martin, a teenager who was shot in Florida by a street vigilante for looking “real suspicious.” A Florida state law, Stand Your Ground Law, would let the shooter Zimmerman go. The law and the facts behind the murder itself is bringing up a huge national controversy over racism and other issues.

The African-American was killed while only wearing a hoodie and carrying Skittles and iced tea. These facts brought hundreds of sympathizers in hoodies with Skittles and iced tea in hand. Marchers all gathered in Union Square in force at around 6 PM. Shortly afterwards, Trayvon Martin’s parents showed up to give a speech to the masses at the park. The movement Occupy Wall Street had started a small occupation at Union Square earlier that week and joined the rally with their large number of protesters, shared their experience in city marches and, last but not least, used the human microphone for relaying information.

At approximately 7 PM, Martin’s parents were set to leave the park when the marchers were heading out onto the street. NYPD wanted all the marchers to stay on the sidewalk, but as Union Square was already overflowing, there was no place for marchers to go.

Also noteworthy: The march was supposed to go to the United Nations uptown as it was the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, however, marchers decided to go West, after Martin’s parents left in a black SUV on E.14th in that direction. Perhaps there was some confusion or loss of leadership there.

The marchers took E. 14th street and walked West over to 6th Avenue where there was a little confrontation with a NYPD motorcade at the intersection there. This frustration led to chants of “Let us march!” Then after a few minutes of chaos, marchers decided to take the entire 6th Avenue uptown.

NYPD constantly tried to keep up with their motorcade and they kept attempting to redirect marchers onto the sidewalks. Given the huge number of walkers, people weren’t going to let the police tell them they couldn’t take the street as they chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!”

At 19th and 6th Avenue, NYPD tried to use their entire motorcade to block the street as three white NYPD vans came to block it as well. The vans were late to the party when marchers walked around the motorcade and took 6th Avenue again. NYPD attempted this again at 23rd and marchers reacted to this move by turning East into the narrow street. They lost the NYPD there.

When hitting 5th Avenue, they marched up to Madison Square Park. There, they walked through vehicular traffic and amassed at the southwest corner of the park. Marchers couldn’t make a decision on what to do next and the march split for a minute or two. And this brought NYPD time as they caught up with the march at the park. When they arrived, marchers then took all of Broadway and walked back down south to Union Square. The energy from the marchers was pulsing as they chanted and took the streets.

The large marching group took over Union Square again. I was at the park’s southeast corner where there was an argument with a few of the rally organizers; a few wanted to keep marching in honor of Trayvon Martin where the main organizer wanted to tone things down. The marchers took things into their own hands and marched South on Broadway. I went with this march for the chunk of the night. Back at the park, Occupy Wall Street protesters stayed at the square while another large march went to Times Square.

The march that went downtown took the streets with their strong and powerful energy as they went all over downtown:

The 200-250 person march reached Canal Street and marched even further downtown on Broadway. Shortly afterwards, the march turned East at City Hall Park to enter One Police Plaza. There, they scaled the barricades to enter the plaza.

After entering, there were loud cheers before quickly turning to enter the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway. When they did this, a group of 20-30 NYPD vehicles with sirens and lights drove onto the Brooklyn-bound lane of the bridge to only be fooled by the marchers. They went even further South on Broadway. The energy was strong.

Marchers passed by Zuccotti Park, home of the Occupy Wall Street movement, to only see it still barricaded and guarded by officers with batons. I asked a marcher, “where is this march going?” And she responded with a, “no idea!” They went further South and they reached the Wall Street bull. Participants scaled and knocked over the barricades. Two protesters stood on top of it with their fists in the air as the crowd shouted, “No justice, no peace!”

NYPD then moved in and the march walked on to Battery Park. At the park, they turned and went uptown on Washington Street. NYPD came in force with riot police and 20 somewhat vehicles. The marchers maneuvered through a park to get on a smaller street where the cop cars couldn’t get access. They took the street on Greenwich and ran as a huge group to the West Street avenue.

Then they met more police at Battery Park on the other side of Battery Park City. The energy was still strong with the police coming in force.

The march then decided to head back to Union Square. It was a slow moving march, however, people kept their energy up with singing, chants and some moments of silence. NYPD had riot cops with batons and zipcuffs alongside the march and everyone stayed on the sidewalk at this point.

With reports of hundreds of rally members at Union Square, the downtown marchers kept their pace to meet them at the park. The Times Square march had already returned before the South march made their descent.

Everyone dispersed into their little groups. Occupy Wall Street had their signs and tables. Occupiers laid around and chatted. Trayvon Martin focused protesters had a few small groups doing the human microphone where speakers could share their feelings and thoughts on the murder case. Later that night, NYPD closed the park with barricades and Occupy Wall Street reacted with a march and some activity of their own.

Here’s a photo of the crowds at Union Square before the police closed the park:

*All photos are mine