Occupy May Day 2012

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Facing Change photographers document May Day Occupy rallies and marches in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, and Oakland as tens of thousands of people took to the streets amidst heavy police presence:

Occupy Wall Street activists staged a May Day Rally calling for a general strike in memory of the history of May 1st as a day dedicated to workers’ rights. Photograph by Andrew Lichtenstein / facingchange.org

Oakland, California

There were many different agendas coalescing together for the May Day protests in Oakland: Immigrants’ rights activists, labor marking the historic holiday, and the Occupy movement seeking to rejuvenate itself.

A large peaceful crowd marched through most of Oakland, but small groups of anarchists engaged in petty vandalism, spraying paint on bank windows and confronting the police, who responded with tear gas. Media attention focused on these incidents, detracting from the real issues.

The longshoremen shut down the port for a day. The nurses are on strike. Those facts were overshadowed by tear gas and street theater.

–Andrew Lichtenstein

About 75 Occupy Chicago protesters held sit-ins outside at two Bank of America branches. Photographs by Carlos Javier Ortiz / facingchange.org

Chicago, Illinois

On a rainy, sweater-wearing day, about a thousand people gathered in Union Park and the two miles to downtown. It was a holiday atmosphere, culminating in a sit-in of activists at Bank Of America branches.

Immigrant rights advocates chanted in Spanish: “Hey Obama! Escucha estamos en la lucha!” (Hey Obama! Listen, we’re in the fight! – “we” meaning the Latino immigrant community and its significant votes.)

Chicago is hosting a NATO summit later this month, and more protests are expected with President Obama and world leaders present.

–Carlos Javier Ortiz

Occupy DC protesters at Malcolm X Park (Officially known as Meridian Hill Park) for a day of music, games, and speeches. Photograph by Lucian Perkins / facingchange.org

Washington D.C.

A small group of several hundred demonstrators met at Malcolm X Park, two and a half miles from the White House, and festively walked through neighborhoods. In the park, there were guitars and games, including “Corporate Pin-the-Donkey” in which a blindfolded protester pins a board with stickers of companies.

It was a low-key day, and the protest reached the White House at 6:30 in the evening. Along the way, curious bystanders took photographs and some shouted their support.

–Lucian Perkins

Between Broome and Spring Streets, Lower Manhattan. Photograph by Alan Chin / facingchange.org

New York, New York

Drizzling rain in the morning threatened to dampen the turnout in New York City, but the sun came out by the early afternoon and 20,000 people marched from Union Square to Wall Street in one of the larger protests nationwide.

Demonstrators gathered at Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, and staged protests at the Bank of America, Time Warner, Fox, and hedge fund companies. Another group crossed the Williamsburg Bridge from Brooklyn, and were joined by a hundred Black Bloc anarchists. They carried a large “Fuck the Police” banner, and clashed with the NYPD on Houston Street, several were arrested. The police covered one bloodied protester’s head and face with a sweatshirt in an apparent attempt to prevent him being photographed in this condition. Some photographers were harassed by protesters as well as the police, as tensions rose on all sides.

Nonetheless, the predominant feeling, as elsewhere, was celebratory rather than confrontational. The crowd danced in Union Square as musicians performed onstage. Protesters wore costumes and colorful banners. The parade down Broadway was orderly, high-spirited, and stretched for a mile.

The Occupy movement may struggle to define itself in an enduring way after unexpected early success and police repression, but it quietly proved on May Day that peaceful protest can be determined and widespread in the face of violent incidents and short attention-spans.

–Alan Chin and Anthony Suau


There have been at least 7,106 documented arrests in 114 U.S. cities as of May 1, 2012 since Sept 17 2011. On May 1st :

Occupy City

No. of Arrests


5/1/2012 Seattle 8 Violence, arrests at Seattle May Day protests Link
Portland 12 Arrests in early Portland May Day protest Link
Oakland 25 25 arrests in Oakland May Day protests Link
Miami 3 Occupy Miami protesters march; three arrested Link
New York 30 In New York, a final May Day march ends at Wall Street Link
Philadelphia 2 2 Arrested in Occupy Protests Link
Los Angeles 13 At least 13 arrested in L.A. May Day protests Link
Albany 23 Arrests mark Occupy’s return Link
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