Yet protesters persisted. The day was marked by an intentional mixture of permitted assemblies and protest protected only by the first amendment. In advance of and during the large march, smaller groups of protesters broke off from the corralled lines and knocked over police barricades in what one observer called a carefully restrained displays of force. Police response was also restrained, though some clashes occurred. The New York Times reported 30 arrests, whereas the live update feed from suggests the number was closer to 50.

Estimates for the march turnout range from 12,000 (from an independent counter) to 30,000 (announced by organizers during the march). Some are suggesting that total participation for the day's activities was close to 100,000. Before the main march, pickets were held at businesses throughout the city where labor disputes were taking place. Targeted sites included Wells Fargo, Koch Brothers, James Farley Post Office, Strand Books, and others (partial listings can be found here and here). Additionally, a wildcat march, a student walkout, a public housing march, a "bike bloc" and feeder marches from neighborhood-based "Occupies" such as Occupy Sunset Park, were convened throughout the day. These efforts converged at the massive rally and march down Broadway, which for a period of time spanned the entire distance from Union Square to Wall Street.

While often under the radar, International Workers Day has been commemorated by the progressive community in the United States since its origin in Chicago 150 years ago. In 2006, massive May Day protests, including several over 500,000 strong, took place in cities across the country in response to a call put forth by the immigrant rights movement. Since then May Day has been back on the mainstream radar. This year, organizing efforts were animated by a call issued by Occupy Wall Street for a "general strike" — a day of work stoppage including paid work as well as chores, school, shopping and banking transactions.

The term "general strike" had provoked opposition from some organizers, who felt that such a call should come from unions in order to have authority. However, on Tuesday this did not seem to be a concern on the ground. Workers were out in force, including union members and those without union protection. In addition to the 99 pickets, many unions who were involved in disputes used the march as an opportunity to get messages out regarding their struggles:
» Members of an SEIU affiliate called "Workers United" showed up dressed in hospital gowns and handed out flyers demanding that Beth Israel Hospital stop using a "sweatshop laundry" called JVK.
» The Transportation Workers Union held signs calling the MTA to task for irresponsible handling of funds, and chanted "Who moves New York? We move New York! No Contract, No Peace! Shut it down? Shut it Down!"
» In a dramatic moment, a massive contingent of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 78 paused just in front of the Department of Homeland Security offices at 26 Federal Plaza, holding signs and raising a deafening chant for immigration reform and an end to deportations.
» The march was led by a brigade of taxis driven by members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, and adorned with signs related to the injustices the drivers face. "15 years on the job, 75,000 riders safely taken home, 0 days with disability insurance!" read one, referring to the case of Sajjad Matin. Matin was injured on the job in February, resulting in the amputation of his leg. He has no health care, disability or retirement benefits, and the NYTWA is appealing to the community for help in supporting him and his family, as well as continuing its efforts to win these benefits for all taxi drivers.

Participation in yesterday's efforts was hardly "general" in the sense of "total." Hundreds, if not thousands of people gawked at marchers from the windows of fully functioning stores for the length of the march down Broadway. Rather, the term "general" seems to have been powerfully employed as a contrast to "specific" — as a call across constituencies and organizations that normally organize only around very focused, often contract-based struggles. This day provided a space within which these sectors could assert their power together, in coordination.

While many mainstream media reports are focusing on the day as a "judgement" of the strength of the movement, those in attendance seemed to experience it as a launchpad toward more organizing. One flyer that was being circulated by the OWS Labor Outreach Committee read "May Day is Just the Beginning!" and invited supporters to a half dozen meetings and actions over the next two weeks — including one taking place on May 2nd.