The Occupy movement that mobilized thousands of protestors last fall was mostly quiet through the winter in New York, as both the cold and the NYPD chased demonstrators out of their makeshift camp in Zuccotti Park. But the movement officially relaunched on May 1st in honor of International Workers' Day, with organized protests taking place throughout the U.S. and with Tom Morello, Das Racist and other musicians staging a May Day concert in downtown Manhattan.
"I traveled 3,000 miles to march with you today," Morello told a diverse crowd of Occupiers during a ceremonial "mic check" in Bryant Park. "It is an honor to march these streets with you, to sing these songs with you, letting the powers that be know that we will be heard."
Morello led a "guitarmy" of hundreds along Fifth Avenue from Bryant Park down to Union Square. An Occupy Tumblr had already supplied the setlist – including Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" and tunes from Morello's own World Wide Rebel Songs LP – and many had cheat sheets taped to the sides of their guitars, as they strummed and sang protest songs along with the rocker. As the band of marches inched its way into Union Square, a much larger rally commenced featuring Das Racist, Dan Deacon, and Immortal Technique on stage.
"It’s overwhelming right now," Deacon told Rolling Stone, as thousands streamed into the park to join the rally. "I’m honored to be a part of it."
The mood in the park was generally festive and celebratory, unlike past Occupy actions that ended in scuffles and pepper spray incidents. The artists traded spots with Union bands and activist speakers. "This is devoted to the workers who couldn’t be here for fear of getting fired," Deacon shouted, before launching into "Of the Mountains" and urging the crowd to start an impromptu dance contest.
Das Racist treated ralliers to their songs "Michael Jackson" and "Rainbow in the Dark" and refused to leave the stage until they'd finished all of their verses, even shouting a capella after their mics were cut off. Rapper-activist Immortal Technique roused his fans with his rapid-fire poetry and message of unity, delivering the message of the 99 Percent to all creeds and races.
The concert was just one of several events that took place across New York City on Tuesday, as the nascent Occupy Movement celebrated its first May Day. Observed throughout the globe, the holiday is closely linked with labor unions and workers'rights. For Morello, it was just the latest show of support for workers. But for Occupy organizers, it was an opportunity to remind the world that their movement is far from over.
"Occupy – they said to me that we’re back," said Immortal Technique. "My message to them is that we never left."