An estimated 1,000 protesters rallied in Union Square Friday afternoon for a May Day rally for worker and immigrant rights. People gathered in support of issues from raising the minimum wage to fair and equal pay for women, but this year May Day meant a lot more to many people-with the death of Freddie Gray, the subsequent violent protests in Baltimore, Maryland, and the indictment today of six police officers in connection to Gray’s death, racism among the police was one of the main messages, if not the most prevalent issue, taken up by the protesters.
A group called Disarm NYPD had a table with pamphlets and free signs, which were popular among protesters — all day their black-and-white messages were seen dotted throughout the crowd. “Basically it’s about community empowerment,” said Disarm NYPD organizer Carlos Cabeza. “These are armed, powerful officers that have the law behind them, but the people need to form their own defense.”
Cabeza said that seeing the indictment of the police officers in Baltimore had an impact on him. “It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. He noted that after he and hundreds of others marched peaceably for justice for Eric Garner the police officers involved in his arrest were not indicted. “It shows when people rebel in ways deemed illegal by the state it results in a favorable outcome,” he said.
Karina Aybar-Jacobs, program director for Dominican Women’s Development Center, said her organization turned out for a much different reason. “It’s a tradition for us to come rally,” she said. “It’s a real workers’ day, where global organizations can advocate for issues like an eight-hour work day, more humane working conditions, and now immigrant workers. It’s crucial for us to mobilize people and raise awareness around these issues that affect us all.”
The gathering began quietly at 2 p.m. By 4:30 p.m. larger crowds had amassed, and people began giving speeches over loudspeakers at the south end of the square. Around 5:30 p.m. police closed part of 14th Street, and protesters started marching east toward Third Avenue chanting “Freddie Gray, Mike Brown, shut the whole system down!” Eventually the parade of protesters formed a line all the way from Union Square around the corner of Second Avenue, taking up one lane of the one-way street. Police did not seem to need to interfere, and there didn’t appear to be any incidents or arrests.
Click through our slideshow to see what went down.