May Day Fun Day
I suppose I could start at the beginning but that was a long time ago. You know when you have had a really long day of intense activity, and very little food or drink, it takes a little while to decompress and make it back into real time. Here in New York yesterday many gathered at Bryant Park in a morning of mist and drizzle, the type of weather when it is not exactly raining but it is not not raining either. The clouds come down from the heavens and make themselves at home in the streets. Umbrellas are rendered redundant.
May Day, such a wonderful pagan ritual celebrating the earthly pleasures of spring delights after the long sleep of winter! Madrigals are sung to greet the rising sun and maidens dance around the May Pole. In parts of the UK anyway. And then there is the International Workers’ Day which commemorates a day back in 1886 when a general strike in Chicago turned nasty.
Which brings me back to here in New York, yesterday. The movement known as Occupy Wall Street called for a General Strike to take place but we all sort of knew this was never going to happen. We had to get our coffee from somewhere even if it was Starbucks. What did happen however was a convergence of some of the masses and, I have to tell you, it was a great day!
The march from Bryant Park was orderly enough. Up to a point and as far down as 34th St to be precise when the marchers spilled from the footpath/sidewalk and out in to 5th Avenue. The pressure was just too much for the path to contain. At which point I thought Oh my God, bedlam and batons!!! But that didn’t happen! The NYPD galvanized scooters, sirens, the whole kit and caboodle but held off on the clobbering and the march continued in freedom all the way down to Union Square. During which time the sun came out to play. It was hot. And Union Square was where it was all happening.
Veterans. Unions. Teachers. Nurses. Immigrants. Artists. Musicians. Plumbers. You name it. They were there. Jesus was even there! OK so that is a slight exaggeration but there was a young man, with long hair, who walked through the crowd carrying a heavy cross and a very glazed expression wearing only a pair of white briefs. He definitely parted the crowds! The crowd, they never saw him coming, but ,when they did it was to exclamations of “oh my God, it’s Jesus” or “Jesus Christ, it’s . . . Jesus!”
From Union Square some hours later, another march down Broadway to Wall Street. Honestly, there was everyone. Name a group. They were there! Parents with babes in arms, or backpacks. Some seriously old people. I met one lovely woman and this is what she told me “I am 90 yrs old. This is my 50th march. Civil rights, Vietnam, marched in Washington, you name it. Nothing changes!”
After that came an appearance from Captain America way up on a window ledge outside some old building on Broadway which somehow added strength and purpose to the raison d’etre. Gravitas, the good old American way! After which it was all the way down into the setting sun of old Broadway and Wall Street where massed cops so deep, some on horses, waited for the masses from which were picked two screaming women hauled into custody. Just like that from out of nowhere and so near to me. It all happens in a New York minute!
Across from Wall St is the picturesque Trinity Church and here a group of marching clergy, I told you there was everyone, linked arms and began the chant “Trinity Church, looks so pretty but does nothing . . .”
From there to who knew where? Cops in riot gear were sent marching up to the top of the hill but they went too far. How do I know this? Because I heard the supervisor ask “What the fuck . . . where are they going?” He brought them back down the line.
Cops on scooters tooted back and fro. The Wall St Bull was penned and so I feared were we. I asked one of the NYPD, sitting near my knee-cap, if we had been kettled. “Dunno. Hey, who you taking pictures for?” I told him I was “independent” thinking desperately, “Where’s a Press Pass when I need one?” But he was a curious cop, and , as he reached into his pocket he asked me “You want a gummy bear? Go on, have one!” I declined his kind offer but let him know that I could kill for a glass of water/stiff drink. “What, you don’t want no gummy bears?” It hurt to say no. It hurt even more to explain that as a result of recent brutal dental surgery any gummy bear would take out the dressing now in situ over the top half of my upper gum.
What more can I say but by God it was a long day, in parts fun for the whole family and one I would not have missed for the world. At the end of a very long day protestors convened en masse at The Vietnam War Veterans Memorial from where my camera battery began blinking for life support and the cops later declared curfew hour had passed, going in to take them in.
I have so many photos from the day and I shall trickle them in over the next few days, weeks and months but, spinning the wheel of fortune . . .
Please, let me know – is this too much information? Or perhaps not enough?
Either way, I leave you with the words of the New Colossus from Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”