Occupy Wall Street’s May Day protests came with promises the city would be “shut down” and fears of massive traffic disruptions and “militant elements” among the many marches. As of noon, we only received reports of a handful of arrests as protesters converged in Bryant Park where the crowd included protest mimes, truants and a staunchly conservative occupier.
Occupiers spent much of the morning in soaking rain picketing locations in Midtown and participating in various marches before making their way to Bryant Park. Susan Howard, New York City chapter coordinator for the National Lawyers Guild, which provides legal support to the protesters said her organization confirmed reports seven arrests, two in Midtown and five on the Williamsburg Bridge. An NYPD spokesman said the police don’t have “any confirmation on specifics of arrests,” but that there had been “a couple.”
In Bryant Park, protesters formed a drum circle and milled about as people handed out literature for upcoming protests. One woman, who regularly made costumed appearances at the original Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park was wearing a green sequined bikini with fake dollar bills and being interviewed by a camera crew. A group of Occupiers wearing French mime style facepaint performed a pantomime alongside a sign reading “Theater For The 99%.”
Since being evicted from Zuccotti Park in November, the Occupiers have seemed to be losing momentum and May Day has been billed as a major comeback for the movement. Grace, a 24-year-old college student at University of Maryland who declined to give her last name, said she drove to New York to attend May Day wasn’t worried about the protests living up to its billing.
“You know, dude,” Grace said. “Any turnout is positive. Right now, it’s really difficult to mobilize.”
Grace told us she was “skipping school” to take part in the protests.
“I wasn’t able to participate when Occupy first started because I was in school, but I’m pretty fed up, so it doesn’t matter anymore,” she said. “I’m almost graduated by now. This seemed like a viable alternative.”
Nearby, an older woman held a sign that was a rather unusual site among the progressive slogans that normally dominate Occupy Wall Street protests. It bore a quote from the conservative radio host Michael Savage, “Liberalism is a mental disorder.”
We asked the woman, who said her name was Anna, whether she opposed the protests. She smiled and pointed to an Occupy Wall Street button on her jacket.
“It’s not against it,” she said of her sign. “I’m all for the reasons why we’re here. I’m against crooks in Washington. Liberalism is the one who opens the borders. Liberalism says everything is all right. If you make no good or bad, it’s all bad.
When we asked where she was from, Anna said “J.F.K. Airport,” where she claimed to have arrived 21 years ago after leaving a socialist country she did not name.
“I forgot where it was, it doesn’t exist anymore,” she said of her homeland.
Anna acknowleged Mr. Savage, whose quote appeared on her sign, is against the protests, but she said that is because he hasn’t visited them for himself.
“He’s not here. He doesn’t know,” she said. “I’m his staunch listener. Media just shows the punks here. I’m not a punk, I have two degrees.”
As we parted ways with Anna she was joined by a man with a shaved head who commiserated with her about liberals.
“Occupy is not a liberal movement, it’s a radical movement,” he said. “We hate liberals as much as you do.”
Protests are planned throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening, so it remains to be seen whether May Day will include the expected mass arrests and mayhem. For now, we decided to take a quick trip back to Politicker headquarters. On the steps outside Bryant Park, we saw a man with a skull painted on his face and a guitar slung over his back who was also making his way out of the park.
“I’m going to have a drink, have a shot and check my Twitter. I’ll be back,” he shouted to a friend who was still inside.