It’s May Day again, but — so far — there hasn’t been the sort of drama we’ve seen in recent years, when over 30 people were arrested in 2012 and still more were apprehended in 2013.
During Occupy Wall Street’s heyday, thousands participated in the East Village and Lower East Side’s May Day festivities. And this year, protests have turned violent in Ukraine and Turkey. But this afternoon here in NYC, just a couple hundred people were assembled in front of the George Washington statue in Union Square Park.
The noon rally was organized by dozens of groups, including the Black Institute, AFSCME LOCAL 375, Colectivo Hondoras USA Resistanica Libre, Hot and Crusty Workers, Laundry Workers Center, and the Occupy Action Council. Bushwick’s leftist/anarchist space, The Base, had also planned to participate, promising online to “continue to struggle until every prison, every border, every nation-state is abolished and every individual desire can be fulfilled in its most feral aspirations!”
Speakers touched on a variety of topics, including unionization, undocumented workers, minimum wage, police brutality, and wage theft.
Alex R., an organizer with Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST), said the broad range of issues was intended to show “solidarity with all the particular struggles.”
Still, the rally seemed sparsely attended.
The ironic reason? “A lot of workers weren’t able to take off work,” Alex R. said.
Speakers — some of them in Spanish — harkened back to the United States’ history of resistance and labor organizing, encouraging listeners to become involved in creating change. “Fight, organize and don’t get deterred,” Brenda Stokely, a IWWD Coalition co-coordinator, said to a cheering audience.
“They have to wrap their heads around the idea that they can make a difference,” Stokely said afterward. “That’s not instilled. I think where there is oppression, there is going to be resistance.”
Others had more political messages.
“Mr. Obama, please stop supporting the terrorists and Al Qaeda in Syria,” Avin Dirki, a member of the Syrian American Council said during the rally, choking back tears. “Our children are dying. We ask for love and peace.”
Afterward, Dirki said that common understanding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad poisoned people in Damascus suburbs with chemical weapons last summer is “a lie” and that the majority of Syrians support al-Assad.
Starting at 5 p.m., the rally will begin marching from Union Square, ultimately ending at Zuccotti Park. In between, various stops will be made to protest the NYPD’s use of stop and frisk, obstacles to unionization, and social injustices affecting lower-income people, like the lack of electricity in the weeks after Hurricane Sandy.
Stops will include the Ninth Precinct stationhouse, Staples, Con Edison, various fast food restaurants, and Stuy Town.
Update: Liveblog below!