Re-Occupied! Thousands of activists clash with police as May Day protesters swarm dozens of U.S. cities
Thousands of Occupy Wall Street activists clashed with police across the country on Tuesday as they swarmed into the streets as part of the movement's nationwide May Day protests.
In a deliberate attempt to bring large-scale European-style May 1 protests to America for the first time, Occupy called for a general strike, urging workers to attend marches rather than work.
The biggest swell of defiance was in New York, where protesters had planned to bring the city to a halt by blockading major arteries like the Brooklyn Bridge - and where at least 50 were arrested.
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Police officers - some in riot gear and others with scooters - stood guard outside the headquarters of blue-chip companies and shadowed protesters as the day culminated in a march down Broadway.
In Oakland, California, tear gas sent protesters fleeing a downtown intersection where they were demonstrating. As protesters ignored police dispersal orders into the evening, officers took 25 people into custody on charges of vandalism, resisting arrest and failing to disperse.
Some 50 black-clad protesters in Seattle used sticks to smash downtown store windows and ran through the streets disrupting traffic.
In Seattle, police reported several arrests after clashes between police and demonstrators. Offenses included vandalism and striking an officer.
Across the country in Washington D.C., demonstrators marched from McPherson Square near the White House to the lobby of a downtown building - which houses UBS - on Monday afternoon.
May Day, which has been associated for more than a century with workers' rights and the labor movement around the world, has been used by American activists in recent years to hold rallies for immigrants' rights.
Those at Chicago's rally said they welcomed participation from the Occupy groups. 'I definitely see it as an enrichment of it,' one organiser Orlando Sepulveda said. 'It's great.'
In Atlanta, about 100 people rallied outside the state Capitol, where a law targeting illegal immigration was passed last year. They called for an end to local-federal partnerships to enforce immigration law.
Back in New York, officers brought out kettling nets to cordon off any unruly protesters, while there were reports on Twitter of teargas being used along Broadway near Union Square.
'Remember remember, the 1st of May, the day we made the bankers pay,' read one sign held by a protester marching through Times Square.
With crowds growing, protesters flocked to Bryant Park to march to Union Square. Tom Morello, from rock band Rage Against the Machine, led a 'Guitarmy' Guitar Workshop beforehand.
As numbers grew and tensions rose, there were reports of disruption along the route, with police employing their batons.
Among the early-morning arrests was a man identified as a Vietnam veteran outside the Bank of America HQ. 'Freedom isn't free,'one activist tweeted. 'Got to arrest some veterans to preserve it.'
There were more than 50 arrests throughout the day, and that number is expected to increase, according to an NYPD spokesperson. Most arrests were for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Tensions continued to rise as protesters marched to the Vietnam Memorial. When the park closed at 10 p.m., some activists clashed with hundreds of police officers, leading to further arrests.
The mass-scale protest comes after the anti-capitalism movement called for a general strike and urged millions of workers to stay at home today and gather in city centres.
The demonstrations did not appear to have majorly disrupted businesses. Plans to close down main streets and bridges in New York City did not go ahead.
On its website, Occupy wrote: 'For the first time, workers, students, immigrants, and the unemployed from 135 U.S. cities will stand together for economic justice.'
It added: 'No work, no school, no shopping, now housework, no compliance.
'If you can’t strike call in sick. If you can’t call in sick hold a slow down.'
According to the timetable of ‘permitted actions’ on occupywallst.org, the day in New York began in Bryant Park at 8 a.m. with a ‘pop up occupation’ over the road from the Bank of America HQ.
Among the arteries into the city that they hoped to target were the Brooklyn Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel and the Holland Tunnel, causing traffic chaos and bringing Manhattan to a standstill.
But the NYPD prepared for the worst, putting detectives in uniform to boost police numbers and having arrest teams at the ready, law enforcement sources told the New York Post.
In anticipation of the strike, the FBI and NYPD reportedly swooped on protesters' homes on Monday.
'There were a number of visits between 6:00 and 7:30 in the morning and at other points in the day that appeared to target people that primarily the NYPD, but in one instance the FBI, wanted to ask certain questions to,' Gideon Oliver, a spokesman for the National Lawyers Guild, which has represented the activists in the past, told Buzzfeed.
Police in Oakland, California - where the movement's most violent protests were held last October - reportedly used tear gas to 'gain the attention of the crowd'. Activists clashed with baton-carrying police who fired flash-bang grenades and used a loudspeaker to order demonstrators to disperse from an intersection.
ABC7 video footage taken in Oakland also shows a woman apparently being pulled to the ground from her bike by police.
In Los Angeles, activists and union members staged early-morning protests at LAX airport, encouraging workers to leave and join their ranks. At least 10 were expecting to be arrested, the LA Times reported, while others began marching downtown.
Trouble was also reported in San Fransisco, where activists taking part in a march on Monday night were accused of smashing windows and vandalising cars along their route. Demonstrators backed off their pledge to occupy the Golden Gate Bridge.
In Chicago, Occupy protesters - watched closely by police - gathered outside Bank of America branches, chanting 'Banks got bailed out, we got sold out'. Police blocked an entrance to a bank as numbers swelled.
In Seattle, 50 black-clad protesters marched through the city centre, carrying black flags on sticks which they used to shatter the windows of several stores including a Nike outlet and an HSBC bank before police forced them out.
The NYPD trained for the protests on Randall's Island this weekend and the department sent around an internal memo to brace officers, the Guardian reported.
It warned of 'pop-up' and splinter demos that could occur at any time, especially during the evening.
It listed events such as a 'wildcat march' starting at 1 p.m. on East Houston Street; a 'Bike Bloc' to beginning at 9 a.m. at Union Square and 'Hoodie March Against Police Violence'.
The memo noted: 'There are fissures within OWS, but a 'respect for diversity of tactics,' which includes everything from peaceful protests to... vandalism... has been embraced by the movement.'
The city's mayor Michael Bloomberg added that while he would tolerate the protest he was not going to let Occupy take over the city.
He said: ‘They don’t have a right to disrupt other people and keep other people from protesting or just going about their business, and we will do as we normally do - find the right balance.’
Thousands of activists have already swarmed some of the other U.S. cities targeted by the movement, preparing to blockade major roads and bridges and occupy businesses and banks.
In Los Angeles, California, protesters marched through LAX airport, encouraging employees to join the movement rather than go to work.
In San Fransisco, which Occupy described as 'a playground for the rich', protests started last night.
Activists are accused of smashing windows and vandalising cars along their marching route.
Occupy Oakland, the most radical of all the Occupy groups in the U.S. scrapped plans to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge but still held a huge rally in the evening.
Students were encouraged to stay away from universities and consumers were being urged not to buy anything.
Demonstrations took place in other major cities across the world, including Hong Kong, London, Madrid, Istanbul and Hamburg in Germany.
Two thousand people swarmed Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece, with another 7,000 gathered outside a factory where employees have not been paid in six months, according to their union.
In Istanbul's Taksim Square, thousands of protesters were met with a police presence.
The day of action comes after Wells Fargo closed three bank branches in New York City when they received suspicious envelopes containing white powder.
New York City Police told Reuters they were investigating six separate incidents of white powder reported at locations around Manhattan.
The Wells Fargo branches will remain closed pending further investigation by the police, bank spokesman Ancel Martinez said.
The branch locations are at Third Avenue and 47th Street; Madison Avenue and 34th Street; and Broadway and 85th Street.
By then the movement had inspired dozens of copycat protests around the world including in the UK and across Europe.
After the crackdown its organisers were forced to holding one-off events but are now hoping to use May 1 as a way of putting themselves back in the limelight.
They are trying to latch on to what in the U.S. has traditionally been a day for labour unions to achieve their goal.