At least 32 arrested during May Day rally in New York City

Josh Einiger Image
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
At least 32 arrested in May Day protests in NYC
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Josh Einiger reports from Midtown.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The police packed it in Monday night after the rally that took over Foley Square. The May Day rally is typically targeted towards workers' rights, but Monday night there was so much more to talk about.

To the wide range of advocates for an ever widening group of causes, this May Day was instead about unified resistance.

In New York City, protesters gathered Monday morning in Bryant Park before marching to J.P. Morgan and blocking the doors. They then headed to Wells Fargo, where they unfurled a banner reading "Your profits, our pain," blocking doors there as well.

Police have made at least 32 arrests.

Watch unedited video of some of the arrests here:

Several other rallies were held in the city, including an afternoon event in Washington Square Park. There were also marches in Union Square and Foley Square, with Mayor Bill de Blasio among the speakers.

"This whole week is an opportunity for us to stand up as a community and say we're going to rise up and fight back," a protester said.

Thousands of demonstrators bought buttons and hoisted signs, some even got arrested as they marched through the streets.

It was a citywide spectacle and just a taste of what's to come later this week, when the president himself comes home for a visit.

"For the president's first trip back to New York, we're going to give him another statement about what our New York stands for," said Steve Choi, NY Immigration Coalition.

In Foley Square, some President Trump supporters did show up, but they were not well received. Police asked them to move across the street.

"We're being shutdown, we are not able to speak our minds," said Maxwell Hare, a Trump supporter.

On International Workers' Day, which for more than a century has promoted labor unions and, more recently, income inequality, many of the issues wound up taking a back seat to immigration, and the wall, and Russia.

One activist wondered if anyone was listening to him.

"If it just becomes something of entertainment or if it just becomes something of a political movement, it takes away from the fact that workers need to have their voices heard for the things that matter," said Cameron Kruger, Independent Drivers Guild.

Meantime, tens of thousands of immigrants and their allies turned out to rally in Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles, while demonstrations were held in dozens of smaller cities from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Portland, Oregon.

In many places, activists urged people to skip work, school and shopping to show the importance of immigrants in American communities.

While union members traditionally march on May 1 for workers' rights in countries around the world, the day has become a rallying point for immigrants in the U.S. since massive demonstrations were held on the date in 2006 against a proposed immigration enforcement bill.

In recent years, immigrant rights protests shrank as groups diverged and shifted their focus on voter registration and lobbying. Larger crowds are expected to return this year as immigrant groups have joined with Muslim organizations, women's advocates and others in their united opposition to Trump administration policies.

"We have never seen such an outpouring of support since we have since the election of Donald Trump," said Kica Matos, a spokeswoman for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement.

During Trump's first 100 days, he has aggressively pursued immigration enforcement, including executive orders for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and a ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries. The government has arrested thousands of immigrants in the country illegally and threatened to withhold funding from jurisdictions that limit cooperation between local and federal immigration authorities.

In response, local leaders have vowed to fight back and civic participation has seen a boost, including February's "Day Without Immigrants." The travel ban and sanctuary order were temporarily halted by legal challenges.

In addition to rallies, immigrant rights activists in communities in Indiana, Massachusetts, Texas and elsewhere are calling for strikes to show Americans the demand for immigrant labor and immigrants' purchasing power.

"On this day, we will not go to work. We will not go to school. We will not buy anything," said Francisca Santiago, a farmworker from Homestead, Florida.

Immigrant advocates said they hope their message will reach Trump, congressional lawmakers and the public, as well as provide a sense of unity and strength to those opposed to the administration's policies. In spite of Trump's avowed crackdown on illegal immigration, many said they hoped a show of strength would help persuade politicians to rethink their plans.

Tom K. Wong, a professor of political science at University of California, San Diego, said the Trump administration's focus on immigration is generating more support for immigrant rights advocates.

"Every pivot back to the issue of immigration gives the immigrant rights movement another opportunity to make its best pitch to the public," he said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)