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May Day – NYC Cops Are Out of Control

May Day - Union Square, NYC

[Update: 5/15/12 – just came across this right on story from the gothamist – consistent with my experience, it includes some scary videos of NYC cops chanting “move, move, move”: Police and Protesters Clash by Wall Street After Euphoric May Day

I went to New York for May Day. I was there to support labor (and OWS  and  OWS and  participate in what appears to be the building of bridges to the Occupy Movement. (I’ve  previously urged various other occupations).

May Day protesters and Occupy march on Broadway

But how does a festive and wonderful peaceful protest (above) turn into a near police riot? (below):

Police gather in Vietnam Veteran's park in preparation for evicting protesters. (9:55 pm)

I wanted to put a little time and distance between the event and writing about it, both so I could cool down and reflect on some of the coverage of the event.

Well, it’s been a week and I’ve moved on to other work, took and deep breath, and read Chris Hedges’ piece, “The People’s Bishop”, which again ratified my take on things.

So, now I will write about what I saw and felt that day.

I guess some will call this narrowly and negatively focused sour grapes from one of the people that the NYC cops manhandled down in Vietnam Veteran’s Park (a little after 10 pm, which apparently the cops decided was closing time). I got abused by while exercising what I naively believed were constitutionally protected rights.

But I found this snarky observation relevant:

So Obama was running both as the peace candidate and the tough guy who ordered Navy Seals to shoot an old man in bed. And he just happened to position himself that way in a televised speech on the same day that Ray Kelly wanted us to be suspicious of brown people with bombs in their butts. And that just happened to be the day that protest season began with Occupy Wall Street putting untold thousands of people who hate corporate capitalism into the streets.

I know. It’s just a coincidence. Or conspiracy theory. The .01% who rule the United States would never stoop to such stunts to knock Occupy Wall Street off the front page and surround it with mentions of terrorism. It was somebody else who beat up all those protestors in parks around the United States last fall.

Like the author of that piece, I too spent all day in Union Square, later marching with about 25,000 people down Broadway to Wall Street.

Like the author, I too think it was no accident that the media downplayed the May Day protests and again distorted their meaning with respect to labor history and the current pro-labor anti-corporate Occupy Movement, while focusing on and exaggerating isolated incidents of violence (all while ignoring police violence, that I again experienced first hand).

I was at the tail end of the Broadway parade, so shortly after I arrived in the Wall Street district, the cops were moving in to crush any attempts to “occupy” public space of any kind.

Protester either reading or channeling David Harvey's newest book "Rebel Cities" - I am reading that now!

I guess the problems start with zealous cops.

I was harassed along the end of the route, by aggressive cops on scooters, who ran into me and hit me several times as I marched in the parade (and refused to yield to them).

Broadway, NYC, 7:25 pm - cops on scooters were harassing marchers. This guy hit me three times!

I guess it’s not far from being assaulted by scooters in the street to being physically manhandled by cops in the park. Can cops arbitrarily and unilaterally decided when to issue a curfew on peaceful protest? I thought, not in the USA!

VV Park - 9:55 pm - cops announce park is closed, order people to leave immediately or face arrest

Shortly after the police announced closure of the park, they moved in with force. I was taking photos of their tactics and was soon myself physically removed from the park by 3 different police officers. The first grabbed me by the collar and violently tried t throw me to the ground. A few moments later, another cop, after shoving me several times, was quickly joined by 5 more cops. He physically grabbed me by the arm and dragged me  out of the park and threw me on the sidewalk. Moments later, as I was hotting photos of protesters being dragged into police vans, I was picked up by the belt of my pants and carried away by a short and violent cop (beware of short men with badges on steroids!).

police move in on protesters, evicting an assaulting them in the process of violating their rights.

Police were randomly grabbing people out of the crowd, violently throwing them to the ground, and arresting them:

police pounce on protester

After being roughed up and handcuffed, protesters were taken to several waiting police vans, who had converged on the site, redolent of some banana republic repression:

apologies for the poor quality - it was dark out and I was shooting at maximum ISO

As the handcuffed protester were dragged into waiting vans by police, they shouted their names out. As the protesters started chanting and repeating their names, the police quickly slammed the van doors shut, to prevent fellow protesters from supporting them and shaming police violence and repression.

cops (foreground) throw protesters into police van

When I complained about my own violent mistreatment and that of protesters to at least 6 white shirted police supervisors, all of them revealed an ignorant and arrogant hostility to fundamental constitutional rights of speech, association, and peaceful redress of grievances.

that sign about sums up my feelings

They all told me the same story – that I had disobeyed a lawful police order – and that anything a policeman ordered was lawful and that there was no right to disobey a policeman’s order.

Like I said, NYC cops are out of control.

I really find it difficult to accept that police are this violent in crushing non-violent peaceful and lawful protest. It is intolerable to me and should be seen as unacceptable by the American people as a fundamental assault on our values and Constitution, which not only protects, but promotes the right to dissent.

So, an otherwise great day was ruined by violent, disrespectful, and/or arrogant and ignorant police.


Well, on the bright side, at least the “Dodgers” were in town for a Double Header!

The "Tax Dodgers" have a message from corporations to the American people.


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