Occupy takes May Day protests to streets across the nation 

click to enlarge Thousands of demonstrators, including Occupy Wall Street activists, participate in the May Day march through downtown Manhattan, New York. - ADREES LATIF/ REUTERS
  • ADREES LATIF/ Reuters
  • Thousands of demonstrators, including Occupy Wall Street activists, participate in the May Day march through downtown Manhattan, New York.

Occupy Wall Street protesters massed outside banks, meditated in public and staged anti-corporate song and dance routines on Tuesday in a May Day effort to revive a movement that triggered nationwide protests against economic injustice last year.

Police arrested small numbers of protesters in minor clashes around New York, chasing hundreds of marchers on Broadway, as demonstrations unfolded around the country.

Although labor unions rejected Occupy pleas for a general strike and demonstrators backed off a pledge to occupy San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge, activists hailed the day's events as a step forward in the movement that had grown inactive and cash poor since capturing world attention last fall.

"We've been building important alliances and radicalized people in what they're willing to endorse. I mean, we never even used to celebrate May Day. Now look at this," said David Graeber, an anthropologist and author active in the movement.

Although May Day originated in Chicago, the workers' day normally gains little notice in the United States compared with other countries around the world.

"We pulled back from big civil disobedience plans this morning with the purpose of building stronger alliances," Graeber said.

But many demonstrators wore black bandanas symbolic of an anarchist faction within the largely peaceful Occupy movement, leading to some of the confrontations with police.

In Manhattan's Lower East Side, about 400 protesters - most of them clad in black, with black bandanas covering their faces - ran onto Broadway as police chased them on scooters. At least five were arrested.

Earlier on Tuesday, U.S. authorities announced the arrest five self-described anarchists in the Cleveland area on suspicion of plotting to blow up a four-lane highway bridge over a national park.

"Occupy Cleveland" said in a statement the men arrested were associated with their movement but that "they were in no way representing or acting on behalf of Occupy Cleveland" and that the group was committed to non-violent protest.

TRAFFIC SNARLED

In San Francisco, the May Day protests began early on Monday night, when demonstrators walking smashed windows and splashed paint on buildings and vehicles near a police sub-station in the Mission District, said police spokesman Sergeant Daryl Fong.

A protest by unionized ferry workers aggravated the morning rush-hour for Bay Area commuters. Anticipating a one-day walkout by workers, transportation officials suspended ferry service between San Francisco and Marin County to the north, forcing some 3,000 commuters to head into town over the Golden Gate Bridge instead and slowing traffic over the famed span.

"I'm a single person barely making ends meet myself. If I had kids it would be 10 times worse. It's hard enough, isn't it?" said picketing ferry deckhand Leslie Propheter, 52, from the nearby town of Novato.

In Chicago, Occupy protesters shadowed by police gathered outside Bank of America branches, raising a large "Chicago Spring" banner and chanting "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out."

Police blocked a State Street bank entrance, and banks in Chicago's banking center on LaSalle Street prepared for protesters by posting extra guards and closing some entrances.

About 200 protesters in Portland, Oregon, were "moving" a woman back into her foreclosed house, chanting "welcome home" when she managed to get in through a side door.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams thanked student demonstrators who marched through town and gathered at City Hall, saying, "keep up the great work" and inviting them to use city hall restrooms.

In Washington, there were plans to march to the White House.

"The Wall Street fat cats are unfairly gaming the system in a way that makes the common man upset," said Bradley Shields, 56, a freelance travel photographer visiting New York from Honolulu.

New York police reported 10 instances of harmless white powder being mailed to financial institutions and others, along with a note saying, "Happy May Day ... This is a reminder you are not in control."

Inspired by the pro-democracy Arab Spring, the Wall Street protesters last year targeted U.S. financial policies they blamed for the yawning income gap between rich and poor - between what they called the 1 percent and the 99 percent.

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