M1GS Dispatch from NYC: Occupy Intensity, Conservative Cowardice, and a May Day to Remember

Conservatives are always ranting about how they've had enough, and about how they're two minutes from taking up arms to defend their so-called freedom. I hear it all the time – the chest-pounding usually comes in the form of not-so-thinly veiled racist rants against the president, or some comparable crapola cloaked in self-serving Second Amendment rhetoric. Any minute now, rednecks and militiamen will storm into major cities, unlatch their tailgates, and unleash mayhem on the liberal heathens. Or so they say.

In reality, it's the colorful progressives in their crosshairs who have been pushed to the brink, and who have taken to the streets in stride. The proof was spread clean across New York yesterday, as tens of thousands of protesters teamed up for a May Day march and untold tangential mayhem that won't soon be forgotten. Armed with no more than picket signs and in some cases confetti bombs and instruments, Occupy forces and their labor comrades did what their detractors only dream of doing but are unlikely to pull off in numbers – they stood up for themselves.

Small swarms of picketers started at the crack of rush hour, tormenting offending banks and businesses, and aggravating commuters in the process. (As one sign said, “Sorry if you're inconvenienced. We're trying to change the world.”) By noon, a few thousand heads were gathered at Bryant Park, off 42nd Street, waiting for details on the push downtown. After an immigrant rights march took off from Bryant and came back – going unbothered until arriving outside of a Wells Fargo and getting the storm troopers called on them – the pebble track around the park was jammed, revealing the first significant sign that May Day would be far from a bust.

The entertainment value on its own was awesome. Led by Tom Morello's GUITARMY – an ad hoc collective of about 300 strummers split into seven groups – beginning at 2pm Occupy marched down 5th Avenue. Songs got played, activists got loud, and cops began pushing at around 34th Street, where throngs broke off of the sidewalk and rushed across three lanes. By this time there were already more than 30 May Day-related arrests throughout the city – some on a rogue march downtown, others near Bryant Park. But the real fireworks had yet to burst.

When denying the magnitude of yesterday's actions, Occupy haters may want to check out an aerial shot from Union Square at around 5pm. The entire area was brimming with laborers and organizers, Occupiers and their union cohorts. It was around this time that the NYPD gave a crowd estimate of 30,000 – a number that participants were quick to boast as they funneled onto Broadway toward Wall Street. Love or hate Occupy and working people, there were tens of thousands of them out there. It's undeniable – like global warming, evolution, and a number of other things that dolts find inconvenient.

Through it all, a number of pedestrians and non-participants complained – on Twitter and in person – about the hurdle caused by marchers. This was especially the case late in the day, since police set two layers of barricades over more than a mile on lower Broadway. It was an aggressive and unnecessary measure in the first place, but the blockade served a purpose other than to cage in protesters. Cops were instructed to stop anyone from crossing Broadway, from just below Canal Street all the way to Bowling Green. As I'm sure was intended, much of the sideline aggravation was directed at Occupy – even though the NYPD was solely responsible for the annoyance.

One should also view skeptically however much the city wasted on police overtime and other May Day expenditures. The number of cops on the scene was absurd, as were their numerous attempts to criminalize actions like crossing the street, or standing in a park. Authorities were looking for a fight, plain and simple, and, as was certainly expected, they got one from this crowd. By the time marchers were ejected from a park on Water Street and forcibly splintered into the surrounding area – leaving packs of a few hundred scattered here and there – arbitrary restrictions forced some protesters into defense mode, and several were assaulted in the process.

Which raises the question of how many Tea Party dingbats and conservative wing-nuts are willing to face this kind of heat. I'd argue that very few are – that they're a bunch of frauds and cowards full of empty promises, and whose idea of fighting involves standing around parks decked in flag regalia. With that said, I completely understand why they're afraid of what transpired in New York and in other cities nationwide yesterday, and why they're determined to discount the turnout. The combination of labor, longtime community activists, and Occupiers – teaming up out of both hope and necessity, and not just under superficial pretenses – is enough to kick a serious dent in yet another right-wing myth: that they're the ones who have reached their breaking point.

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