Stinging gas sends May Day protesters fleeing

By Terry Collins

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, May 2 2012 7:50 a.m. MDT

Seattle Police officers arrest a man that threw a glass jar and hit an officer in his face shield during a May Day rally on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 in downtown Seattle. The rally turned violent when black-clad protesters smashed windows and threw objects at police.

seattlepi.com, Joshua Trujillo) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; SEATTLE TIMES OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT; TV OUT, Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — Thousands of protesters in New York demanded an end to income inequality and housing foreclosures. Police fired tear gas to disperse marchers in Oakland, Calif. And black-clad demonstrators smashed windows in Seattle and occupied a building owned by the Catholic archdiocese in San Francisco.

Activists across the U.S. joined in worldwide May Day protests Tuesday, with anti-Wall Street demonstrators leading the way in some cities as they tried to recapture the enthusiasm that propelled their movement last fall.

While some protesters clashed with police, the melees were far less violent than ones that erupted last fall when the movement was at its peak. There were no major disruptions, though arrests were reported — including at least 25 in the San Francisco Bay area city of Oakland.

Many of the rallies, which drew activists pushing a variety of causes, also did not have the same drawing power that gatherings had last year for the Occupy movement or a half-dozen years ago for May Day rallies for immigration reform.

In recent years, activists in the U.S. used May Day to hold rallies for immigrant rights, but the day has been associated for more than a century with workers' rights and the labor movement both in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Across the world on Tuesday, protests drew tens of thousands of demonstrators into the streets from the Philippines to Spain. They demanded everything from wage increases to an end to cuts in education, health care and other austerity measures.

The U.S. protests were the most visible organizing effort by anti-Wall Street groups since the movement's encampments were dismantled last fall.

The major developments include:

— In Oakland, the scene of several violent clashes between activists and police during last fall's Occupy-inspired protests, the situation threatened to boil over again when police fired tear gas, sending hundreds of demonstrators scrambling.

Officers also fired "flash-bang" grenades to disperse protesters converging on police as they wrestled people to the ground while trying to make arrests, and used more tear gas on Tuesday night to break up the bottle-throwing remnants of what had been a peaceful rally of several thousand.

At least 25 people were taken into custody during the course of the day, including one for setting a police car on fire, police said.

Earlier, some protesters tried to force businesses to shut down for not observing calls for a "general strike."

— In Seattle, black-clad protesters used sticks to smash store windows and ran through the streets disrupting traffic. Police have made at least eight arrests.

While much smaller in scale, the mayhem was reminiscent of the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in the city that caused widespread damage to stores and forced the cancellation of some WTO events.

Authorities said many of the most violent protesters were trying to hide in the larger crowd by shedding their all-black clothes after they used items such as rocks, hammers and tire irons to damage property.

— In New York, hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters and their supporters spilled out onto Fifth Avenue in a confrontation with police amid citywide protests, while thousands later gathered peacefully in Union Square.

The group had promised the day would mark a spring revival of their movement.

Occupy organizer Mark Bray said the mood had changed since the group's first organized events late last year. "There was a sense of novelty to Occupy in October," he said. "Today is more celebratory, and nostalgic."

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