The Red Stairs in Times Square joined the growing list of New York City landmarks closed to those who threaten the corporate revenue of its billionaire mayor Tuesday, while local news outlets controlled by Michael Bloomberg’s fellow media tycoons continued to limit public awareness of his repressive actions.
Police blocked access to the Red Stairs to more than 1,200 peaceful protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement, who had hoped to exercise their freedoms of speech and assembly there during a global day of action. The iconic stairs rise above Times Square.
The ruling political machine and its business allies previously have prevented the nonviolent protesters from visiting the 9/11 Memorial and the area around New York Stock Exchange. Bloomberg also evicted the Occupy tent camp in Zuccotti Park in a bloody crackdown on Nov. 15 that was emulated by big-city mayors across the country.
Occupiers still succeeded in bringing their cause into the public forum Tuesday, by demonstrating at the foot of the stairs and crisscrossing Gotham with marches.
“I grew up in a police state in Belfast, Ireland, and this is definitely what a police state looks like,” Mark Hamilton, 35, of Jersey City, N.J., said as he cradled his 3-year-old daughter in his lap. “We should be on those steps. They only roped them off to hinder Occupy Wall Street.”
For a dead movement, Occupy Wall Street packs one helluva wallop.
The populist protest against economic disparity, political corruption, and predatory banking practices joined with organized labor Tuesday to spark May Day protests in more than 100 U.S cities, which drew more than 80,000 participants and resulted in at least 56 arrests. The largest gathering occurred in Lower Manhattan, where more than 50,000 people marched in the single biggest turnout in the brief history of the 8-month-old movement.
The strong showing was a collective rebuke for the political pundits who pronounced the American pro-democracy dead over the winter, after big-city mayors launched a coordinated series of raids against Occupy’s tent camps.
“Today's May Day march was a massive success, considering the protesters used a grassroots organizing strategy and lacked the support of major media outlets that the Tea Party enjoyed,” said Occupy Pundit Jesse LeGreca. “If we keep it up our political leaders will not be able to ignore the pushback against austerity and shock doctrine disaster capitalism that the financial elite are so hell bent upon. Remember, they only call it a class war when we fight back.”
The wealthiest elected official in U.S. history continues to use his office to shield a financial sector that helped him build a $20 billion fortune while precipitating the worst global economic meltdown since the Great Depression. Bloomberg, who views the New York City Police Department as his “own private army," sought to hinder his fellow Americans' First Amendment right to “freedom of expression without government interference” during a rally against soaring tuition costs, a march for universal health care, and an ongoing vigil against predatory financial practices.
More than 6,000 arrests have occurred nationwide since Americans began protesting the concentration of our nation’s wealth in the hands of the richest 1% in September, with the NYPD accounting for more than any other law enforcement agency. Bloomberg’s private army tallied another 19 of their fellow countrymen and women Wednesday.
Occupier Andrew Speirs, 22, of Dallas, said modern America bears little resemblance to the democracy he was taught about in school.
“This is corporate facism and here in New York it's a dictatorship, too,” Speirs said. “I came to New York City because the Bloomberg Nanny State epitomizes everything that’s wrong with America right now – the arrests, the divide between rich and poor and the mass amounts of advertising that are being used to mislead people.”
A nonviolent protest against police brutality in New York City played out like a script from the satirical Colbert Report on Saturday as at least 14 marchers were arrested and many more were manhandled, including a 16-year-old girl whose shirt was torn off.
"Another day, another few notches out of the right to assembly in Bloombergistan," Nick Mirzeroff said of the March 24 arrests. "A march against police violence was broken up by – guess what – police violence."
Messiah Hamid's arrest stunned veteran members of the Occupy Wall Street movement, who shouted at police "that is a 16-year-old girl" and "that's a kid" as she was carried away, hands tied behind her and shirt torn open to expose the red bra underneath.
One video of the incident suggests Messiah was targeted by officers after she exchanged words with the driver of a police scooter heading the wrong way through marchers on a congested one-way street. The 16-year-old and several other young women subsequently became entangled and fell to the pavement, according to a bystander.