an Indymedia EXCLUSIVE by Aries de la Cruz

Super Barrio Man fighting the INS, minutes before the Police stormed in
to arrest a man in violation of the NYC Anti-Mask Law.

(IMC PHOTO: Workhorse)

In a repeat of last year's Mayday arrests in New York City, where at least 20 activists were arrested for violating the anti-mask law, witnesses are once again blaming NYPD officers for causing a Mayday fracas outside 5th avenue and 13th street immediately after a street theater skit by Reclaim the Streets, which resulted in 6 people, two women and four men, being placed under arrest for various charges, including trespassing, loitering, assault, obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct. At a rally later in the afternoon in front of the IMF offices near the United Nations, another activist was arrested on similar charges.



Mayday began as a pagan holiday in Europe to celebrate the first Spring planting. It remained incredibly popular with artisans and villages even as the holiday was outlawed by Catholic Church in the 1700s. Mischief and satire would rule on Mayday, with jesters and fools making fun of local authorities and clergy.

It became a working class holiday on May 1, 1886 when the Knights of Labor called for a general strike across the US and Canada to demand an eight-hour workday. Police attacked strikers in Chicago, killing six. The next day, a demonstration was held at Haymarket Square to protest the police brutality. A bomb exploded around a crowd of police, killing eight. Police then arrested several anarchist trade unionists, suspecting that they were responsible for the bombing.

A boy holds sign that says "Haymarket will Not Be Forgotten" during Mayday Protests in Chicago
(IMC PHOTO: Patrick Chee)

Much controversy surrounded the Haymarket Massacre; Some said that it was the workers who threw the bombs at the police, others say a government agent dropped the bomb while trying to retreat from charging workers. Trade unionists Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engle and Adolph Fischer were found guilty and executed by the State of Illinois.



The day's festivities were organized by the Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants, along with other organizations like UNITE! Local 169, Organizing Committee for Workers Rights and The Filipino Workers Center. It began at noon at Union Square, an area of Manhattan long used by workers and political activists as a gathering place ever since the first Labor Parade took place in 1882. The crowd that meet there on Mayday represented different political idelogies, anarchists, communists, greens, socialists and working-class immigrants, yet their demands were the same: theirpurpose of the march was to demand General Amnesty for all immigrants and that immigrants should have the right to jobs with fair pay and decent conditions.

The march comes as Section 245(i) in The Legal Immigration and Family Act (LIFE Act) enacted in December 2000, expired on Monday. According to the provision, immigrants whose visas have expired can apply for green cards if they have certain family ties or are sponsored by their employers.

The crowd of about 500 listened to musicians like Fred Ho and the local band Black 47. A colorful truck which belonged to a Coca-Cola subsidiary, Planet Java, was distributing sample drinks to passerby, most likely on a lunch break, yards away from the stage and sound system. They told Indymedia they were not aware of the Mayday event and were there purely coincidentally. The Coca-Cola company came under fire from Greenpeace recently for it's use of hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigerating their drinks.

At around 3:30, the marchers began to leave Union Square, surrounded on all sides by police officers, with two policemen (usually people of color) for every protestor present. Members of the NYPD Technical and Research Unit (TARU), were out in full force. Communications vans and unmarked vehicles started converging in Union Square as early as 7Am that morning. The TARU are infamous for videotaping and photographing activists at major protests and rallies in New York City.

The Mayday March along 14th street.
(IMC PHOTO: Workhorse)

The marchers carried signs that called for Amnesty and solidarity with workers all over the world., Zapatista puppets danced to musical instruments; They made their way towards 5th avenue and 17th street, chanting and durmming all the way down to 13th street where Super Barrio Man fought Green Grocery Owner Man, who pays his workers "sub-minimum wages" and "fires them for trying to form a union", according to Reclaim the Streets. The match took place in front of the East Natural Deli, notorious for it's use of non-unionized workers.

[Editor's note: See the latest issue of the Indypendent for more on the Green Grocer Campaign].



The trouble began after the round was over. The Radical Cheerleaders were invited into the makeshift wrestling ring to deliver a cheer in favor of Super Barrio Man but was immediately interrupted by Jeannette Gabriel of the Organizing Committee who used a bullhorn to call attention to the officers who were starting to arrest protestors for violating the Anti-Mask law.

As she did this, the police also attempted to arrest her for violating NYC laws against sound devices. "We weren't allowed to have a sound permit at East Natural because its so close to the New School Campus, " Gabriel told Indymedia. "The police threatened to arrest me for making an announcement with the bullhorn." A Legal Observer from the National Lawyer's Guild was able to clear Gabriel from possible arrest.

Police began to load 2 protestors, whose names are being withheld by Indymedia for legal reasons, into a waiting Paddy Wagon; A photographer with the working press attempted to document the moment, but was tackled down and reprimanded by police for crossing police lines, even though a press card empowers journalists to be able to cross such lines. In an earlier incident, an Indymedia cameraman was threatened with arrest.

The crowd became angrier by the moment. They were confused and furious towards the police for the arrests, and frustrated because there was nothing they could do but shout "Shame, shame, shame!" upon the officers. Some began to invoke the name of Amadou Diallo, the unarmed black man who was a victim of police brutality in 1999.

A member of the People's Law Collective, who witnessed the arrests said a police officer, Lt. Anthony Bologna, notorious for his previous treatment of protestors, shoved two young activists, a male and a female and began to leave the now-agitated crowd. Bologna then left, and returned to arrest them.

"It was completely an act of aggression, " said the Law Collective witness, regarding the excessive response of the police. It was later learned that the police were looking for Super Barrio Man, who went incognito to allude police and to fight again later that day against the IMF.

She observed that only young people were arrested. "Judging from how the police have engaged this march before," she said, referring to last year's arrests on the same march. "Particularly young punk kids. I think [the police] knew who they wanted. I don't think its any coincidence that they grabbed [the male protestor] because he had colored hair. He had never been arrested he was doing nothing."

Police deny media access as they arrest demonstrators outside the union-busting East Natural Deli.
(IMC PHOTO: Workhorse)

Arguments began to break out against the understandably angry marchers, who told Indymedia that the cops themselves are workers and the hostility shown towards the protesters was unwarranted. Word passed through the crowd that the march was starting pull together; They were instructed by organizers to begin marching towards 36th street and 8th avenue and they did so, chanting anti-Police slogans.

They arrived at 36th street, where they met up with more groups like the Filipino Workers Center, who told everyone that hundreds of thousands of working people were also marching in the Philippines for Mayday. Eventually, the marchers made their way towards the IMF/World Bank Building, crossing over at Times Square, to the amazement of tourists.

Outside the IMF, police divided the protesters into two blocks using steel barricades, a tactic used by the police force to make marches and demonstrations look smaller and less powerful. An activist was arrested by plainclothes Officer Alberano dressed in a vest, jeans and t-shirt, for possession of a long-tubed cardboard Australian aboriginal instrument known as a diggery doo.

"He [Officer Alberano] told me that I am not allowed to jump over the pens that they had caged all the demonstrators with," the activist told Indymedia in an interview. "I was carried down two blocks very quickly, after they jerked my arm trying to get me to release my diggery doo, and when that didnt happen they just threw the cuffs on me..."

"He was very cordial after he sat in a very hot van with me for a half hour while his partner went to go get his car, an unmarked police vehicle," the young man said about his arresting officer. "According to him I was jumping back and forth over it many times in front of them while they asked me not to do that and while they tried to apprehend me I swung my large cardboard 'thing', as quoted in the police report, around at them and other people, endangering the safety of the community."

He and the activists arrested earlier during the day were taken to the 17th Precinct in Greenwich Village were they were processed and booked. He was eventually released and given an ACD (Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal). The other 5 activists were eventually released on their own recognizance, according to the People's Law Collective.

Despite the arrests, the police division of protesters at the IMF and other setbacks, everyone agreed that the march for Workers rights, including immigrant workers, was sucessful in getting their message across. "We formed a broad coalition that made a statement of unity on the issue of immigrant worker rights," said said Jose Schiffino of UNITE! Local 169. "We held our march in spite of police provocation in a peaceable manner. We should all be proud of our action on May Day."

"The police action was a provocation to squash the march. We did not dissipate," he said. "We won.


Names of arrested protesters have been held for NŠ (NO Copyright) 2001 Aries de la Cruz. Sharerights, Copyleft Extended to All. Comments welcome.
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