San Diegans Join Global May Day – Occupy Protests

by on May 1, 2012 · 6 comments

in American Empire, California, Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Economy, History, Homelessness, Labor, Organizing, Popular, San Diego, World News

The noon rally at Civic Center Plaza, May Day 2012. Photo by Michael Gomel.

Hundreds of San Diegans rallied and marched today – May Day – in solidarity with janitors and teachers here – and joining a global May Day and Occupy joint focus in demonstrations around the nation and world.

Major protests were also held in New York City, Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco and up to a total of 135 cities across the U.S.  Corporate media reports on these demonstrations – the first major wave of Occupy Wall Street protests in months – focused on some trashing and violence – plus arrests – in Seattle, New York City, and Oakland.

The day of rallies and protests in San Diego began at City College in downtown. There was another rally sponsored by mainly labor groups at the Civic Center Plaza at the noon hour – with a march from there to two local banks a couple of blocks away: Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

Meanwhile, teachers and their supporters were rallying up at the edge of Balboa Park in front of Roosevelt Middle School in protest of teacher and budget cuts.  After hearing speeches – including one from mayoral candidate Congressman Bob Filner – the crowd marched to the Education Center.

May Day rally at Civic Center Plaza - aka Freedom Plaza. Photo by Cheryl Loefflor.

The Civic Center Plaza rally ended up with the crowd marching off towards Chicano Park – where a protest – festival around immigration issues was being held.

And up north in Seattle, as late as 6:30 pm PDT – hundreds of demonstrators were roaming the streets of downtown.  Teargas had been used earlier by police in efforts to contain the protests.  One bizarre story from Seattle has three guys dressed up in “super-hero” outfits pepper spraying demonstrators.

Coverage of the May Day protests – both here in San Diego and of from around the country – was spotty in local press. Some stations, like Fox 5, had several short videos of local protests, while 10 News had not a word.

Kelly Mayhew was at the Civic Center rally. Mayhew, English Professor at San Diego City College and partner of OB Rag columnist Jim Miller, was there with their son Walt, who is 8 years old.  Kelly was quoted in a KPBS report:

 “In my son’s school, we’re facing not having a librarian, reducing our nursing staff, not having a counselor on site, losing support staff. That impacts my child’s life. Rather than taking a little bit more from those who can afford it, we’re hitting the most vulnerable. When you don’t properly fund public education, you foreclose the future.”

Justin Hewgill – who is friends and associates of OB Rag people involved in the original Occupy San Diego – also was quoted by KPBS. Justin works downtown at the Employee Rights Center,  and was quoted as saying:

 “The only way for working class people to get ideas into the conversation is by showing up on the street and behaving unruly with a message. That’s what May Day has been for more than a century. It’s been an International Day for Worker’s Justice and worker’s celebrations and that’s what we’re doing, except in today’s context. 

 “That means referring immigrant rights and referencing the economic justice struggle that we call ‘occupy.’ We want to be part of the conversation.”

 Break-down of Reports of Major US Cities:

(Editor: We will be updating and editing the remainder of the article below.)

NY Times: The May Day demonstrations took place across the United States and around the globe.   In the Bay Area in California, marches and protests snarled traffic and caused road closings. Hundreds marched through Oakland, temporarily closing streets and bank branches and clashing with officers in riot gear, who deployed tear gas on crowds.

The Golden Gate Ferry service, used by many commuters from Marin County to San Francisco, was shut down after workers in bitter contract negotiations over health insurance coverage went on strike and picketed ferry terminals.

On Monday night, protesters had marched through San Francisco’s Mission District, throwing paint and smashing storefront windows at dozens of businesses, restaurants and the local police station. The group also vandalized parked cars, broke windows and spray painted anarchy symbols on car hoods.

Nation Magazine:

May Day’s organizers started with two main goals: To work with Occupy, labor, and immigration activists to lead a nationwide general strike, and to get people back on the streets and involved in Occupy’s reemergence after a long winter.

Some cities excelled at coordination among labor, immigration, and Occupy groups. In Los Angeles, New York, Baltimore, and Chicago, labor and Occupy groups worked together to lead mostly peaceful joint actions and sit-ins.

In other cities, protesters were less organized and elements of their groups engaged in property destruction. Local police in Seattle, Oakland, and Portland responded with crackdowns that included arrests, tear gas, and kettling. Some reports said officers were throwing people off their bikes and beating resisting protesters with police batons. But the isolated actions of a few individuals did not define the entire movement.

Leading a nationwide general strike is an ambitious goal, so it is no surprise that the number of May Day protesters was smaller than activists had hoped for. But May Day succeeded in its goal to be a nationwide protest that united activists in cities and towns across the country and signaled the return of the Occupy movement.

The major developments include:

Oakland, California

— In Oakland, the scene of several violent clashes between activists and police in recent months, the situation threatened to boil over again when police fired tear gas, sending hundreds of demonstrators scrambling.

Officers also fired “flash-bang” grenades to disperse protesters converging on police as they tried to make arrests, police said. Four people were taken into custody.

Earlier, some protesters tried to force businesses to shut down for not observing calls for a “general strike.”

Oakland Local:

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in East Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood for a May Day march, but the heavily Latino group of protestors, who were entertained on the plaza by Mexican dancers and drummers, has changed the course of the march twice, according to OL’s Steve Fisher, who is with the marchers. “First, they were headed to Frank Ogawa Plaza,” Fisher said. “Then San Antonio Park.”

However, the Fruitvale march has crossed paths with another group of May Day protesters–about 100 strong–who are dressed in Black Bloc” style clothing and who are also headed for San Antonio Park. This group is being trailed by a convoy of Oakland riot police, paddy wagons and armored vehicles.

As soon as the Fruitvale contigent met the “Black Bloc” group, they began chanting, “Let the March through” to the Black Bloc; the march is headed to San Antonio Park.   All the marches are expected to converge on Frank Ogawa Plaza at 6 PM for rallies later in the evening.

Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Authorities say a group that broke off from a downtown rally briefly sskirmished with police and left an officer injured, and 10 union demonstrators were arrested for blocking an intersection near Los Angeles International airport in May Day protests across the city.

The downtown splinter group of several dozen protesters surrounded a small group of police in a tense standoff Tuesday.

Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith tells KNBC-TV an officer was hit in the helmet by a skateboard, but she was in good condition at a hospital.

More officers appeared and the group dispersed. No arrests were announced.

In the peaceful main downtown rally, hundreds marched through streets demanding economic equality.

Police say the 10 arrests at LAX stemmed from a 1-day strike of employees protesting the use of non-union labor.

Seattle, WA  (see separate report)

— In Seattle, black-clad protesters used sticks to smash small downtown windows and ran through the streets disrupting traffic. Police have made at least two arrests.

While much smaller in scale, the mayhem was reminiscent of the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in the city that caused widespread damage to stores and forced the cancellation of some WTO events.

Authorities said many of the most violent protesters were trying to hide in the larger crowd by shedding their all-black clothes after they had caused damage with things like rocks, hammers and tire irons.

Portland, Oregon

Portland students match for their future! "fund our future" they chant.

Protesters marching through Portland:

 New York City

Union Square, New York City, May Day 2012.

NY Times:

About 30 protesters have been arrested on Tuesday around Manhattan in a day of May Day demonstrations organized by Occupy Wall Street, the police said.   All the arrests were on disorderly conduct charges, mostly of people who were blocking traffic or resisting arrest, said Paul J. Browne, the head police spokesman. Protesters were arrested near Bryant Park in Midtown, on the Williamsburg Bridge, at a park on the Lower East Side and near Washington Square Park as marchers kept on the move and repeatedly converged and split off.

Around 3 p.m., a crowd surged out of Washington Square Park carrying a banner that read “On Strike.” Officers shouted for protesters to remain on the sidewalk, but several protesters holding the banner stepped into the middle of Avenue of the Americas, where several officers — including one in plain clothes who had appeared to be marching with the crowd — tackled and arrested them.   One protester who was led away in cuffs had a bloodied face.

Activists and the police had been playing cat-and-mouse across downtown, as the marchers ranged quickly from Chinatown to SoHo to Greenwich Village, taking to the roadways and often moving against traffic apparently in an attempt to thwart pursuit.   At a rally in Union Square, where protesters were gathering around 3:15, the themes were the ones that Occupy Wall Street has sounded from the outset of the movement last fall — opposition to big banks and the government that bailed them out after they helped cause the recession.

“I just watched the whole economy becoming devastating, and no one wants to hire me,” Kenzia Snyder, 59, a freelance chef from Chelsea, said at Union Square. “There are so many issues that are all coming together. It’s shameful how the powers are abusing the 99 percent.”

— In New York, hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters and their supporters spilled out onto Fifth Avenue in a confrontation with police amid citywide May Day protests, while thousands later gathered peacefully in Union Square.

The group had promised the day would mark a spring revival of their movement.

Occupy organizer Mark Bray said the mood had changed since the group’s first organized events late last year. “There was a sense of novelty to Occupy in October,” he said. “Today is more celebratory, and nostalgic.”

Marchers briefly flooded the avenue and blocked traffic before police in riot gear pushed them back onto the sidewalks. The group chanted: “We are the people. We are united!”


— In Chicago, about 2,000 activists marched through the city to demand immigration reform and greater protections for workers. The demonstration was largely peaceful.


— In Atlanta, about 100 people rallied outside the state Capitol, where a law targeting illegal immigration was passed last year. They called for equal rights for all workers and an end to local-federal partnerships to enforce immigration law.

Organizers said turnout last year was greater, in part, because the protest was on a Sunday, rather than during the work week.  “I’m a bit disappointed, but I think this is something to be expected,” said Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, one of the main organizers of the rally.

“It’s very difficult to keep a high level of excitement going,” Nicholls said. “But it’s not only about mobilization. It’s also about organization, and we have people working every day to promote immigrant rights.”

 International May Day Protests

The protests came just days ahead of key elections in Greece and France, whose leaders have acutely felt popular anger over policies many feel are strangling any hopes of economic recovery. The rallies reflected deep pessimism in Spain, dealing with a fragile economy is in the cross-hairs of the European debt crisis.

Yet optimism and national pride emerged too. Over 100,000 turned out in Russia for May Day rallies that celebrated Vladimir Putin’s government. And tens of thousands of workers rallied with joy in France, hoping this would be the last week of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative leadership.


About 50 members of the Occupy London movement brought tents and camping supplies to move into a square that houses the London Stock Exchange. There were no immediate reports of arrests.


Under a gray Madrid sky that reflected the dark national mood, 25-year Adriana Jaime turned out to march. Jaime speaks three languages and has a masters degree as a translator, but works for what she derided as peanuts in a university research project that has been cut from three years to three months due to a lack of funds.

“I am here because there is no future for the young people of this country,” Jaime said as many marchers carried black-and-white placards with the word NO and a pair of red scissors.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is trying desperately to cut a bloated deficit, restore investor confidence in Spain’s public finances, lower its 24.4 percent jobless rate, and fend off fears the country will soon need a bailout like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

But Ana Lopez, a 44-year-old civil servant, argued the government is doing nothing to help workers and that the economic crisis is only benefiting banks.

“Money does not just disappear. It does not fly away. It just changes hands, and now it is with the banks,” Lopez said. “And the politicians are puppets of the banks.”


In France, tens of thousands of workers, leftists and union leaders marked May Day with glee, hoping that a presidential runoff vote Sunday will put a Socialist – Francois Hollande – at the helm for the first time since 1988. Many voters fear Sarkozy will erode France’s welfare and worker protections, and see him as too friendly with the rich.

“Sarkozy has allowed himself for too long to manhandle the lower classes,” said Dante Leonardi, a 24-year-old in Paris. “Today we must show … that we want him to leave.”

Hollande has promised high taxes on the rich.

“We are going to choose Hollande because we want something else for France. We want to keep our jobs, we want to keep our industrial jobs, we want a new economy,” said protester Serge Tanguy.


Even in Germany, where the economy is churning and unemployment is at a record low, unions estimated that 400,000 people showed up at over 400 May Day rallies. The DGB union group sharply criticized Europe’s treaty enshrining fiscal discipline and the austerity measures across the continent, calling instead for a stimulus program to revive the 17-nation eurozone’s depressed economies.


In debt-crippled Greece, more than 2,000 people marched through central Athens in subdued May Day protests centered on the country’s harsh austerity program.

“(We need) new policies that will satisfy the needs of workers and not of bosses and banks,” said Ilias Vrettakos of the ADEDY union.


In Moscow, the mood was resolutely pro-government, as 100,000 people – including President Dmitry Medvedev and President-elect Putin – took part in the main May Day march.

The two leaders happily chatted with participants as many banners criticized the Russian opposition movement. One read “Spring has come, the swamp has dried up,” referring to Bolotnaya (Swampy) Square, the site of some of the largest opposition demonstrations.

Communists and leftists held a separate May Day rally in Moscow that attracted about 3,000. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov decried international economic troubles, saying that “without socialism, without respect for the working people who create all the main value in this land, it is not possible to get out of this crisis.”

Police arrested 22 people at the rally, and violence was largely contained at the protests.

South America


After a workers’ day march in Santiago, Chile, some protesters threw objects at closed businesses, breaking the windows of several banks and pulling out furniture to build a bonfire in the street. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons, and arrested an undetermined number of people.


In Argentina, small explosion went off outside the EU headquarters in Buenos Aires before dawn, breaking a few windows, but there were no injuries and no one was arrested.


In Havana, Cubans marked May Day not with protest but with a mass demonstration dedicated to “preserving and perfecting socialism,” the slogan on a huge banner carried by medical workers who led the march. Thousands filed through the capital’s Plaza of the Revolution in front of President Raul Castro and Cabinet officials, waving red, white and blue Cuban flags.


Thousands in Venezuela held separate May Day marches in Caracas, one praising President Hugo Chavez for signing a law that reduces the workweek to 40 hours and another rally protesting the law’s passage without input from businesses and labor unions.


Earlier, thousands of workers protested in the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan and other Asian nations, demanding wage hikes. They said their take-home pay could not keep up with rising food, energy and housing prices and school fees.

An unemployed father of six set himself on fire in southern Pakistan in an apparent attempt to kill himself because he was mired in poverty, according to police officer Nek Mohammed. Abdul Razzaq Ansari, 45, suffered burns on 40 percent of his body but survived.

In Manila, capital of the Philippines, more than 8,000 union members clad in red shirts and waving red streamers marched under a brutal sun to a heavily barricaded bridge near the Malacanang presidential palace, which teemed with thousands of riot police.

Another group of left-wing workers later burned a huge effigy of President Benigno Aquino III, depicting him as a lackey of the United States and big business. Aquino has rejected their calls for a $3 daily pay hike, which he warned could worsen inflation and spark layoffs.

In Indonesia, thousands of protesters demanding higher wages paraded through traffic-clogged streets in the capital, Jakarta, where 16,000 police and soldiers were deployed. Protests were also held in Taiwan, Malaysia and Hong Kong.


News sources:  CBS 8;  AP – CBS 8 ; KUSI ;


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Monty Kroopkin May 2, 2012 at 7:59 am

Alternet has this account, mostly about events in NYC (but some Oakland/SF too):


Monty Kroopkin May 2, 2012 at 8:01 am

Also, Occupy San Diego wrapped up the May Day events with an open public general assembly at 7 pm at Freedom Plaza (aka: Civic Center). Discussion focused on assessments of the day of actions and thinking about what the movement needs to be doing in the time ahead.


Monty Kroopkin May 2, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Thanks to Frank Gormlie and the OB Rag for the best May Day reporting in San Diego!

The best televised news reports on May Day actions in USA and worldwide that I’ve seen so far are on DemocracyNow! evening news of May 2, 2012 at:

Hey everybody, please share the best reports you find!


Frank Gormlie May 2, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Monty, thanks. With local TV, it appears that Fox 5 had the best coverage. I was very disappointed with the liberal msnbc crew, Rachel, Laurence, and Big Ed – not a mention last night. They were all focused on Obama’s Afghanistan news.


John P. Falchi May 3, 2012 at 8:31 am

Yesterday, was a great uniting of the clan. I saw many old faces at City College and at Freedom Plaza and in the March through downtown San Diego, celebrating May Day–the international workers day. OB Rag was there and gave us fine coverage.


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