NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Marches were held across the country this May Day Friday, as a show of solidarity with demonstrators in Baltimore.
As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, a protest rally decrying the police custody death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore was under way in Union Square late Friday afternoon.
The May 1st Coalition for Worker & Immigrant Rights organized the Friday rally, which was to be followed by a march to Foley Square. About 1,000 people were estimated to be in Union Square as of 5 p.m.
PHOTOS: New York City May Day Rally
The march was to head east on 14th Street and south on Second Avenue, Chrystie Street and the Bowery, and finally west on Worth Street to Foley Square. By 6:30 p.m., marchers were headed south through the East Village and stopped at the site where three buildings were destroyed in an explosion on Second Avenue and 7th Street last month.
By 8 p.m., the marchers were in Foley Square. They represented many causes, but an anarchist group holding a banner reading, “Make them pay for Freddie Gray” was briefly seen leading the march.
As CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported, the protesters later moved on back through Lower Manhattan and up to the East Village. A crowd of about 250 people continued the march, and at least one person was arrested as some of the protesters tried to go into the streets, Joe Biermann reported from Chopper 2.
There were fewer than a dozen arrests in all, police said.
The Friday rally marked the 10th May Day march for the coalition, but the group is also calling the protest “May Day for Freddie Gray,” with an emphasis on the point that black and brown lives matter.
“We stand in solidarity with Baltimore in the wake of the most recent killing of Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore police. We are still trying to come to grips with the savage killing of Walter Scott, killed in South Carolina, shot in the back running away from a police officer who decided to murder Scott in cold blood,” said Charles Jenkins, co-coordinator of the May 1st Coalition. “The war on black lives continues from Michael Brown to Eric Garner and countless others. The common thread — all black and brown people are killed by white police officers.”
“This year’s event is dedicated to the struggle against police terror given the deep crisis for black and Latino youth,” said Teresa Gutierrez, co-coordinator of the May 1st Coalition.
People packed Union Square from all over.
“We came down from Vermont so we could vocalize our opinions; be a part of what’s going on,” said Maya Shengold.
“I feel like race issues and class issues are inseparably intertwined,” said protester Kate Wright.
Max Wheeler, 18, said he is optimistic that police-community relations will improve if both sides communicate in a meaningful way.
“Maybe if the young kids – and I have to side with the cops on this one – stop doing dumb things like playing that knockout game,” Wheeler said. “But at the same time, the cops shouldn’t always pull their weapon when they see a young black teen.”
The march was coordinated with police, and there was a planned route.
“We are more than willing to work with demonstrators – the two permitted marches today; giving them access to the streets; a lane in the street; sidewalks, blocking off plazas for those events,” said police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
Bratton had no sympathy for those who might go out of their way to disobey police.
“In terms of some of the anarchist types, it’s all about baiting the cops, and you’ve seen it. You guys have been covering this stuff for a long time. It’s all about trying to catch a cop — egg them on, bait them on to get them in some form of inappropriate behavior,” Bratton said. “If they want to engage in that type of behavior, I’m more than happy to lock them up very quickly.”
Some protesters said they would stick to the program.
“We will stay on the route,” said Che Pitcher of Piscataway, New Jersey. “We don’t want no trouble with the cops.”
But organizers said not everyone will necessarily follow the route.
“Our coalition supports all tactics,” Gutierrez said. “Self-determination for the protesters.”
Bratton warned that people who deviate from the route and violate other city laws will be arrested.
A demonstration earlier this week resulted in 143 arrests after protesters spilled into traffic and shut down the outbound Holland Tunnel, the West Side Highway and several other city streets. Boisterous protests also spread to Herald Square, Times Square and Columbus Circle.
Bratton said Thursday police would be “more assertive” in dealing with demonstrators who try to block roads or bridges than they were during December protests in the wake of the Eric Garner grand jury decision.
“You have the right to protest,” Bratton said. “We’ll work with you to protest as much as you want, but when you start having a very significant adverse impact on everybody else’s lives, you have to be concerned with that as well.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio also issued a blunt warning: “When the police give you instruction, you follow the instruction. It’s not debatable. And I’m saying this as someone who has been at these protests and recognize when the police say ‘stay to the sidewalk,’ it means stay to the sidewalk. And that has to be respected.”
The rally on Friday had been planned before Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Gray’s death was a homicide.
Mosby said she is charging six officers in the death of Gray.
“The findings of our comprehensive, thorough, and independent investigation coupled with the ME’s determination that Mr. Gray’s death was a homicide which we received today, has led us to believe that we have probable cause to file criminal charges,” Mosby said.
One officer will face second degree murder charges, Mosby said.