Revolution #268, May 13, 2012
May Day 2012
Occupy Steps Out Across the Country
As dusk settled on New York City, a huge triumphant cry rose up at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street—a block south of Zuccotti Park, the site of Occupy Wall Street in the Fall—the May Day march of tens of thousands had arrived after a day of diverse protest and creative actions.
The Occupy Movement had called for International Workers Day, May 1st, to be a day of "No Work, No School, No Housework, No Shopping!"—a day when Occupy would retake the stage. In LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Washington DC, Houston, as well as many other cities people responded revealing a breadth of support; there is a whole section of people who do not want it to go away.
While this May 1st was not the "General Strike" that some in the Occupy movement had worked and hoped for, there were significant mixes of different sections of people protesting, debating, and taking to the streets, all up against massive police mobilization and continued demonization. On the morning before May Day, the NYPD raided a few activists' homes with warrants for trivial outstanding matters and then attempted to interrogate activists about what was going to happen on May Day.
New York was alive with protest. In the morning rain, picket lines went up at several symbols of corporate power. By midday close to 1,000 gathered in Midtown at Bryant Park in a scene reminiscent of Zuccotti Park, with the People's Library, silk screening, art making, and revelry. Tom Morello conducted a "Guitarmy" of musicians in protest songs who then joined in a march at 2 pm which took 5th Avenue, jubilantly filling the street down to Union Square. At the same time, two to three hundred marched from Occupy Brooklyn across a bridge to Manhattan. Hundreds more defiant protesters careened through the East Village in a "Wildcat" march. Simultaneously, several hundred students and professors held a "Free University" in a Manhattan park with scores of classes and talks.
There was an overflow crowd at Union Square by 5 pm for the May Day Coalition rally. One theme of the rally was demanding rights for immigrants; people represented from around the world with a predominance of Latino organizations. The rally started off with a performance by Tom Morello, followed by speeches interspersed with appearances by the musicians Das Racist and Dan Deacon. Then the march stepped off to a performance by Immortal Technique. Union members, cab drivers, families, a large young multinational LGBTQ contingent, students from around the city—there was a spirit throughout that the struggle against all the injustices is just beginning: we won't go away. The spirit and determination of the core of Occupy infused the march.
At the start of the march, people had to walk through a gauntlet of a double line of riot-clad police on each side of the street with an armada of police scooters and vans filling the side street. The capitalist state showed its "local army"—at least half of the two- to three-mile march was lined with cops every two feet. At key junctures foot pigs were backed up by mounted pigs. At different points the cops grabbed and arrested people. When some of the marchers sat down at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street, police quickly charged in to make arrests. At the end of the day after a general assembly, police filled two more paddy wagons. All told about 50 to 80 people were arrested in New York City. In Oakland, California, the pigs deployed armored vehicles, stun grenades, and tear gas.
This massive show of pig force by the ruling class belies their swagger. This is a class and system that fear the crimes they commit against humanity here and around the world have the potential to spark a storm of resistance.
As the rally began, a spirited internationalist contingent marched in with large flags that said: "Internationalism: The Whole World Comes First." At the front of the contingent was a beautiful 5x12 foot banner inspired by the image from Revolution newspaper of the Earth breaking through chains. The banner read "Humanity Needs Revolution" in English and Spanish.
The internationalist contingent brought a compelling revolutionary substance into the rally and march. With revolutionaries at the core, the front line of the spirited contingent was young women—some from Occupy, a professional, a student—followed by a multinational, multigenerational crew, some of whom came straight from being on trial for the first STOP "Stop & Frisk" protest last October, others from the battle around Trayvon Martin, as well as antiwar activists from World Can't Wait.
The striking hand-painted lead banner: "Humanity Needs Revolution" in English and Spanish, was made by people attracted by the internationalist stand. Fabric was donated, funds were pledged, and on the eve of May Day it was created in a lively scene in a downtown park where a revolutionary communist and two artists—one an African-American aspiring artist who left home in the Midwest to join the Occupy movement, the other a student we met that day who has been watching the revolutionaries from afar and wanting to get involved. Other folks joined in to help paint and to talk about what May First is all about and the message of "humanity needs revolution."
Everyone in the contingent wanted to bring the stand that was concentrated in two quotes from BA: "Internationalism: the Whole World Comes First" and "American Lives Are NOT More Important Than Other People's Lives" into May Day. This resonated with many throughout the day who wanted the world to see that there are people here in the belly of the beast and who recognize that their responsibility is to the people of the world. Anchoring this mix and engaging people all along the route, revolutionaries sold the May Day issue of Revolution featuring quotes from BA that go straight to the heart that the problem in the world is imperialism and that revolution leading to communism—where all forms of oppression and exploitation are eliminated throughout the world.
Revolution Books New York stopped business as usual at the store for the day and went on the road with large colorful book tables at the Free University and in Union Square. A professor brought her class to the table at Union Square, where there was a bilingual discussion of Lo BAsico, the Spanish version of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. The day was filled with Revolution newspaper quickly changing hands, interspersed with scores of conversations about what the problem and what the solution is to the misery faced around the globe. Out to be part of May Day to shake things up, people were open to finding out about Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism, and were inspired, impressed and excited by the BAsics Bus Tour. More than one said, "that's brave." Hearing about the tour opened people up to wanting to know more about BA and why the revolutionaries were making this the cutting edge of the movement for revolution.
May Day 2012. Masses of people made a statement that they will not be easily shut down. Occupy made an important step retaking the stage. Big questions over what is the problem in the world and what is the solution are being joined by growing numbers of people. The road forward for resistance movements is being forged in the streets and in continuing conversations and debates. Through all this there are new openings to bring many people into discovering and being a part of the movement for revolution.
We also received the following reports.
Thousands went into the streets on May Day in the Bay Area with a spirit of defiance and refusal to go along with the oppressive routine. This day marked a re-emergence of the Occupy movement. Morning actions, including an anti-capitalist march in Oakland; a building takeover in San Francisco; one-day strikes called by nurses at ten hospitals in the Bay Area and by ferry workers (which shut down the ferries that take morning commuters to jobs in San Francisco); and a large immigrants’ rights “March for Dignity and Resistance” called in coordination with Occupy Oakland. May Day protests took place in many Bay Area cities and also in Fresno.
In Oakland, crowds gathered at Oscar Grant Plaza, in front of City Hall, the site of evictions of Occupy Oakland by the police last fall. Occupiers took over the main intersection there—and were met by sharp attack from the police. They chanted, “The whole world is watching and we are not afraid.”
Many came to the plaza looking for something different and something better. A young woman said, “I love May Day, and I love it when everyone comes together. I love how there are people from all walks of life here. Our society doesn’t work for any of us, constantly conditions us to look out for ourselves—but it is a global thing, we are all part of the 99 per cent.” A reporter for the SF Bay Guardian said: “I stand in solidarity with the workers of the world—not our government. I don’t believe in borders.”
When the internationalist contingent that had been organized entered into the protests, people were drawn to its revolutionary spirit. At its peak, close to 50 people were marching, chanting: “We are not Americans. We are internationalists.” “Que tenemos? Nada!” Que queremos? Todo el mundo.” A contingent of postal workers joined the contingent’s soccer inspired song: “O -le ole ole ole Re-vo...lu-cion!”
Over 300 copies of Revolution/Revolucion were distributed. BAsics was sold, and many were introduced to BA for the first time and some contributed funds. Hundreds of postcards saying “Join us! Twelve ways that you can be part of building the movement for revolution—right now” got into people’s hands.
As night fell and the crowd diminished, police moved in to clear the plaza by force. Tear gas, motorcycles, clubs and other munitions were used against protesters and there were media reports of broken chain store windows and a burnt police car.
This May 1st, Occupy LA took to the streets. Ten different actions took place beginning with striking airport workers and supporters at LAX, one of the largest airports in the country. Later, people converged on downtown LA from four directions, rallying at a spot close to LA’s Skid Row. It was a wild mix of people, youth of all nationalities together with others. Everybody felt they had to be there on May 1st to make their voices heard against the many ways capitalism is working against the people. All throughout the day, downtown LA was nearly brought to a halt by crisscrossing marches and rallies in the streets and parks, protests in the financial district as well as in the immigrant neighborhoods and in locations like Florence and Normandie, where the 1992 LA Rebellion first broke out.
In the afternoon, while over a thousand Occupiers filled a corner next to Skid Row, blocks away a march of thousands demanding justice for immigrants and an end to attacks on immigrant rights went to City Hall. A contingent of over a hundred, dressed in red T-shirts, represented the LGBTQ community. And there was a sizable—and magnetic—internationalist contingent with its multicolored banners in English and Spanish, declaring “Internationalism: the Whole World Comes First!” People joined in this contingent, helping to carry the banners, picking up signs, and dancing to the internationalist slogans. Scores of copies of Revolution newspaper were sold in the march and to the thousands who lined the sidewalks, and a new flier giving everyone “12 Ways To Join the Movement for Revolution” went out all along the way.
As the night began to close in, several thousand May Day demonstrators converged in the downtown area to celebrate what they had accomplished during the day and to dance to the music of the bands that were playing. In the afternoon the band Outernational played, fresh from completing a 2,000-mile tour playing gigs all along the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
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