posted 2012-05-13 01:20:50

March Down Broadway Draws Thousands

Confrontation escalates as the parade reached endpoint

Jenady Garshofsky


Additional reporting by

John Bolger

News Editor

Bike Bloc on Broadway. Photo by Jenady Garshofsky.
On May 1 protesters marched from Union Square to the Financial District on Broadway. The march was organized by labor unions and was one of two legally permitted events throughout the course of the day. Despite the permitted nature of the event, this march prompted an abundant presence of NYPD officers ready to thwart disorderly protesters and quash contention along the route.

Moments before the massive parade marched from Union Square down Broadway around 5:30p.m., NYPD officers on Broadway were positioned in a shoulder to shoulder arrangement along the perimeter of the sidewalk with a line of scooters between them and the street. NYPD officers held batons and had flexicuffs attached at their sides. Sergeant Carlos Nieves from the NYPD press office said “the NYPD does not provide crowd estimates.” Occupy Together, an Occupy Wall Street affiliate, estimated that there were between 10,000 and 25,000 protesters present at the march. The New York Civil Liberties Union put the crowd at 30,000.

The parade was escorted by an armada of marked and unmarked police sedans, SUVs and vans which lead the parade with NYPD Community Affairs officers on foot behind them. At least five NYPD helicopters patrolled the skies.

Shortly after the parade left Union Square, organizers refused to continue marching because of police barricades, which they alleged were preventing other protesters from joining the march. An NYPD official, wearing an olive suit and a pin from the Sergeants Benevolent Association, explained to organizers that “people can’t get out of the park because too many people are on Broadway,” and the parade continued.

The march was also delayed by interruptions caused by the “Bike Bloc.” The Bike Bloc, a group of protesters affiliated with Occupy Wall Street which rode bicycles throughout the various May Day events, arrived in front of the police escort on Broadway and disrupted the flow of the parade. Cyclists biked back and forth in circles within the small area in front of the escort and weaved in between NYPD vehicles, slowing the progress of the march. When the NYPD sounded their sirens at the Bike Bloc, the Bike Bloc emulated the siren in a mocking tone. At one point an NYPD lieutenant stepped out of her car and walked towards the Bike Bloc yelling, but the Bike Bloc cycled ahead before she could reach them.

Cyclists from the Occupy Wall Street Bike Coalition collaborated with Strike Everywhere and Bike Bloc NYC to create multiple bike blocs, survey the NYPD and assist in the lengthy day of protests. “Utilizing the laws that were on our side and the sheer terror that strikes the hearts of the NYPD when they see protesters legally being in the streets,” the Occupy Wall Street Bike Coalition wrote in a May Day recap on their Wordpress, “we were able to out-wile and out-ride the NYPD most of the day.”

Maria Hernandez, a freshman with an undeclared major in Comparative Literature and a Macaulay Honors student at Hunter College, took the streets on May 1 with her handlebars and rode amongst other protesters during the Broadway march. From her bike, Hernandez realized the massive size of the march. She said that cyclists were riding blocks ahead of the protest and yelling “out of the stores, into the streets,” to gather momentum before the march approached. From her view on wheels, Hernandez said, “the police were a combination of terrified and frustrated. [They] couldn’t attack us. There were long lines of cops just staring.”

As the march reached the Financial District, seven police horses, situated behind two police barricades and a line of officers on foot, guarded entrance to Wall Street. As the march was passing Wall Street, the NYPD made an opening in the barricades to allow an Interceptor (a three-wheeled scooter-like NYPD vehicle) into the crowd. A protester with a purple bicycle stood in front of the interceptor in defiance, not allowing it to progress. An NYPD officer proceeded to grab the bicycle and a minor scuffle ensued. No demonstrators were arrested and the Interceptor was eventually allowed to enter the parade onto Broadway.

At 8:00p.m., the march arrived at Whitehall Street, the parade’s permitted endpoint. As the NYPD erected barricades and assembled riot police at the end of parade, many protesters turned around and went back up Broadway. After the NYPD attempted to expel protesters from the barricaded regions of Broadway north of the parade’s final destination, a sea of protesters moved onto Beaver Street and continued down Broad Street to Pearl Street, blocking traffic the whole way. Protesters proceeded to Coenties Slip before crossing Water Street to enter the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza.

Once the initial surge of protesters entered the park, the NYPD attempted to prevent additional protesters from crossing Water Street. After they relented their Water Street blockade, traffic was restored and protesters were permitted to enter and exit the park on an unregulated basis, despite the presence of NYPD officers arranged in a frontline at the park’s Water Street entrance with riot police standing in a group on the sidewalk. According to an NYPD captain at the memorial, there were at least 1,000 protesters inside the park before it closed.

In the time leading up to the park’s 10 p.m. close, police mobilized around the park. In the lobbies of buildings adjacent to the memorial NYPD officers could be seen shuffling in and out of view. On South Street there were multitudes of NYPD vehicles: three motorcycles, one van, three marked cars and over forty scooters.

At exactly 10:00 p.m. three jail buses arrived at Water Street. A few minutes after 10 p.m., two lieutenants from the Manhattan South Task Force announced on a megaphone that the park was closed and protesters choosing to remain in the park would be subject to arrest. Riot gear and police moved in closer and filled the area outside the building lobbies in preparation for a strong removal effort.

As large groups of people left the park and dispersed in an unorganized manner into the surrounding streets, confrontations between protesters and the NYPD erupted in the close quarters of the Financial District. At Hanover Street and Pearl Street two conflicts occurred, leading to beatings and arrests. On William Street, a lieutenant intimidated a protester on the street and forced the protester onto the sidewalk. Acknowledging the lieutenant’s aggressive behavior, Chief of Department Esposito approached him and said “easy, don’t overreact. When it is time, it is time,” in reference to the use of force against protesters.

At Hanover Street and William Street another eruption occurred as a protester hit a cigarette trash receptacle against a storefront window. No damage was caused to the window and the receptacle crashed to the curb. Police quickly took control of the situation and the protester was arrested. An officer on a megaphone then informed the crowd that the street was closed and instructed protesters to return down the street from which they came.

With minor confusion and high tensions, protesters dispersed into the night to reconvene at Zuccotti Park or flee separate ways after a long day of protesting.