Long Islanders joined thousands of union, pro-immigration and Occupy Wall Street protesters marching across Manhattan in massive May Day rallies Tuesday—sometimes clashing with police—while a small group simultaneously marched through downtown Hempstead village in solidarity.
The annual May 1 demonstration in support of international labor rights rallies was bolstered by occupiers regaining steam as the spring weather warms, blending rally cries for students and retirees with the shared grievances of income inequality and unchecked corporate greed. At least 30 protesters were reportedly arrested in New York City.
“I think it’s awesome that people are coming out today,” said an Occupy Long Island member from Rocky Point who didn’t want to give his name. “I think it’s a very good sign that they’re making permanent events.”
Although there were some clashes with NYPD officers—like when protesters briefly blocked traffic on the 5th and 6th avenues during the march from Bryant Park to Union Square—many said they wanted to protest peacefully and just have their voices heard.
“We’re trying to continue that tradition,” Mark Bray, 29, a member of OWS’ press team said. “We’ve been organizing a lot of different campaigns throughout the winter; Occupy is far from dead and we’re really built for the long haul.”
In Bryant Park, the make-shift commander center for the day’s events, demonstrators gathered together and chanted familiar cries of “We are the 99 percent,” and danced and sang, while others munched on sandwiches and set up meetings to plot the day’s protests.
Police on foot and on motorcycles followed close by as hundreds of protesters began their 26-block march to Union Square from Midtown to 14th Street.
When the march hit 32nd Street, protesters spilled into the streets down 5th Avenue against the orders of the police, causing traffic behind them to come to a stand still.The mostly peaceful march got heated when police on motorcycles attempted to block off the march, but protesters easily cracked through the human barricade and resumed their walk, chanting: “Whose streets? Our streets!”
People in retail shops surrounding the park peered through giant windows to catch a glimpse of the event. A police helicopter flying above kept a watchful eye on the demonstrations.
Some union members, including 38-year-old Dominic Renda, of Queens, thought OWS gave May Day a shot in the arm.
“It’s great,” he said, “Occupy movement represents everything we need to revitalize” the workforce.
Buddy, 61, of Brooklyn, a union member who works at Brooklyn Hospital, said a day like this is the perfect way for ordinary people to get their message out.
“We need the kind of demonstrations that we had in November,” said Buddy. “The people on top have to take notice.”
Jake Weissman, a 25-year-old aspiring teacher from New Jersey, said most educators “get discredited for all the hard work they do…most teachers I know work very long days.”
Around 4 p.m., The Workplace Project, an immigration advocacy group, held their march in Hempstead. Though in support of Occupy Wall Street, the group is not aligned with that cause.
The march began at The Workplace Program’s Hempstead office. Supporters marched with Spanish-language picket signs, banged on their drums and shouted their message through megaphones.
Leading the group was Monica Diaz of The Workplace Project, who said that the main objective of the march was “to bring to light what the daily struggles are, and to bring voice to secluded workers in different industries, who are being abused in this country.”
-With Michael Ventimiglia