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.
At Union Square, a woman had set up a maypole with streamers, each bearing a different injustice, "so we can weave our grievances together," she said. The park and its surroundings flooded with marchers and protesters; a rally was already underway on the south end. Unlike Bryant Park an hour ago—whose great lawn was closed off, separating the protesters into clumps, east and west—Union Square was packed: every bench claimed, every railing and curb sat upon, every pathway active, every open space occupied. A constant crush of people passed.
The energy in the air gave it a sense of Zuccotti redux: a cluster of drummers on one end, a peppering of leafletters, artists making art, students chatting, musicians jamming, transients resting in the shade; I saw dogs, hand-rolled cigarettes, an empty bottle of wine, and masses of angry, peaceful, and energized peoples. They were all here, at least for now, as the cool and rainy morning gave way to a sunny spring afternoon. As one marcher had said in front of Lord & Taylor, "occupy is back!"