Fifteen hundred Occupy protesters defied police and stopped traffic on Fifth Avenue and Broadway yesterday afternoon as they marched from Bryant Park to Union Square. The march, which did not have a permit, began on the sidewalks at 40th Street, led by the “guitarmy” that had been clustered around the park’s Gertrude Stein statue. Non-guitared marchers exceeded the guitarists, though; they blew whistles, banged drums, and shouted “all day, all week, Occupy Wall Street!” as a line of police on motorcycles chaperoned them from the curb.
A few blocks south, several cops in riot gear spilled out of a paddywagon. “I don’t see no riot here! Put away your riot gear!” the protesters shouted at them. One protester slapped a sticker that read “Fuck the bullshit smash capitalism” onto the back of a traffic light.
At 34th Street, there was pandemonium when the protesters realized they had people on the east side of the street, as well. As onlookers watched, hanging out their office windows or standing in front of shops, the two groups met, rushing into the street and stopping traffic. Police shoved as many protesters as they could back onto the sidewalks—which was many, many protesters, including at least one into the wheel of a police motorcycle, causing a fall—but they couldn’t shove them all. The cops were outnumbered; for every marcher they pushed back, two rushed forward.
So from 34th Street to Madison Square Park, protesters occupied Fifth Avenue, shutting down crosstown and downtown traffic. Police attempted to control it; at one point, a line of motorcycles came to block an intersection, but protesters simply walked around them. Eventually, the police appeared to give up, bringing up the rear with vehicles flashing their emergency lights. The protesters relished their victory, literally dancing in the streets—hollering, jumping, and screaming, “whose streets? Our streets!”
“We got a helicopter!” one noted proudly as it buzzed overhead.