My May Day Experience

I arrived at Oscar Grant Plaza with my dog, Mac, at around 12pm on May Day (May 1st) 2012. As I approached the plaza I was bombarded with the  familiar feelings I grew to love since November of last year. I saw many familiar faces and even more new ones. I thought for a moment how nice it would be if we could get together like this every week.  The mood was great until I walked into the street at 14th and Broadway.

Here there was a much different feeling, one I could only describe as fear and it seemed almost palpable. I then heard a flash bang and saw a cloud of smoke just south of the intersection. Many people started running and yelling “tear gas!”  Fearing for the safety of my dog, I retreated down 14th towards City Hall. This is where I saw something that terrified me at first:

I was told by a medic that this was a baton wound but at first sight I had flash backs of Scott Olsen. When I took this picture they were waiting to take her to the hospital.

After things settled down the mood went up. People danced as artists performed revolutionary songs. Some did yoga on the grass while others waited in line for a fresh “May Day Poster” made on the spot:

After Rallying for a bit some decided to march around city hall where there had been hundreds of cops lining up. At this point I left and headed towards Fruitvale Bart.

As I walked up to the Fruitvale action I could sense that spirits were high, probably due to the lack of a strong police presence. Many people continued to amass as I walked through the crowd. This group was extremely diverse with different groups, many of which were identifying themselves with matching attire and signs.

There were multiple bands, mostly percussion, playing different styles of music. There were fliers being handed out and discussions about labor, education, immigrant rights, etc. People were being educated and enjoying themselves. Then the march started. There must of been 2000+ people at this time.

The march was amazing! It included a giant Decolonize ship, two music trucks, native dancing of many kinds, chanting, preaching, singing,  and a plethora of signs and banners supporting labor rights, Immigrant rights, student rights, children’s rights, and many more representing  oppressed people from all over the world. The march would often stop and consolidate which I thought was helpful. We even took a break at a park for about 30 minutes at one point, where there were bathrooms and everyone could rest in the grass.

After our break we continued on to Oscar Grant Plaza at a nice steady pace which allowed many to stay with us. Once we arrived at the plaza most kept marching around town eventually convening at OGP again. At this point food had been brought to the plaza so I was waiting in line for a while.

They served chicken stew and beans, with salad and green chips. It was quite delicious and filling. I am not sure how many people were fed but there were at least 100 people in line when I was getting food.

Shortly after eating, hundreds of riot cops started marching up 14th towards Broadway and in about 10 minutes we heard the familiar “Unlawful Assembly” message.  At this point the cops had blocked 14th street on both sides of  Broadway, and they had the north end of Broadway blocked, leaving us the plaza or South on Broadway.

Suddenly the riot cops began chasing us down Broadway.  Their primary tactic was to push people down then arrest them. Most people scattered down the various side streets as a small group of us remained on the street heading towards 19th. We then waited for everyone to group up at 19th and Broadway. I watched a trash can burn as we waited. Once we decided where to march we headed down Broadway and then made a right on to 20th.

We could hear sirens  and motorcycles racing down Broadway so many of us started to run. Then I started to hear glass break all around me. The windows of big banks came down as we continued to run through the street being chased by the police. The police started to show up in greater numbers with motorcycles, dirt bikes, cop cars, and suvs.

They chased us with their vehicles and I could no longer keep running so I started to walk as did a few others. I turned the corner at 24th and Webster into the Audi dealership trying to get away from the police when I heard over the megaphone “Get the Wagon, we have them corralled” so I quickly turned around and headed the other way.

I headed down Valdez and thought I had escaped the cops, so I was startled when I heard the megaphone again: “Hey you with the brown shirt, tan pants, and long blonde hair! Get in the van.” Confused (I don’t match the description at all) I continued to walk down the street and headed back towards OGP.

The whole way I saw police activity, Cop cars, Vans, and Suvs racing up and down the street, Motorcycles and dirt bikes racing everywhere, sirens and helicopters thick in the air,  and numerous officers from around the bay area including CHP.

As I approached the plaza I saw a fellow media friend being arrested allegedly for filming on private property with out a press pass. She was put into the van after the cop told me she could get out with a press pass. Once at the plaza I spoke with some friends trying to figure out what had happened.

After about 15 minutes approximately 75 people had gathered at the corner of 14th & Broadway at which point the police, hundreds strong once again, told us we can not stand there and to cross the street. Once we crossed the street the police continued to push us down the side walk heading south on Broadway.

I was unclear as to their intentions at first, as were most of us. Eventually I just went home.  Many were dispersing which most likely was the purpose of  pushing us down the side walk.