Occupy Wall Street launched its much anticipated May Day protest in solidarity with International Workers' Day on May 1, 2012 in New York City. The protestors taking part in the “May 1st General Strike” overran Broadway and marched to Union Square.
By 4:30 p.m. at least 15 had been arrested in isolated skirmishes with the New York Police Department. The leadership of the “Nightwatchman” and his Guitarmy, however, stole the show that day. The Nightwatchman is Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello. He tweeted for 10,000 guitar players to join him in Occupy’s May Day protest. Morello has not kept his support of Occupy Wall Street a secret. In 2011, Morello attended and performed at Occupy protests in London, Los Angeles and New York.
Occupy Guitarmy even created a Tumblr account (See it here) to provide tips and music sheet downloads of the day’s playlist. They encouraged the soldiers of the guitarmy to make sure to tune their guitar correctly and tape a cheat-sheet of chords onto their instrument. There was also a rehearsal in the afternoon before the Guitarmy march commenced. Rousing traditionals such as “This Land is Your Land” and “We Shall Not Be Moved” were practiced and played.
So, with the many demonstrations planned for May Day, Morello’s “Occupy Guitarmy” movement hoped to put Occupy Wall Street back on the front pages again—and it seems like they did. In an interview with the Village Voice, Occupy’s music co-organizers Goldi and Alphonzo Terrell explained the ideas behind Guitarmy.
"This is a really exciting platform and space for like-minded musicians to come together for something that really matters," Terrell said.
“You can’t arrest a song,” Goldi said. “ You can’t beat a song with batons.”
Music, Goldi says, is an important outreach tool. It gets people involved who normally wouldn’t want to participate.
Morello agrees. “I traveled 3,000 miles to march with you today,” Morello told his Guitarmy during a mic check in Bryant Park. He called it an honor to march with the Guitarmy. The guitarmy wasn’t 10,000 guitar players strong, but there were hundreds of faithful musicians who turned up instead. Those hundreds became thousands when the Guitarmy joined the rally in Union Square where Das Racist, Dan Deacon and Immortal Technique were already onstage.
There were many events occurring across NYC on May Day. Throughout the world, the first of May is linked with International Workers’ Day or national labor days that celebrate workers’ rights and rally labor unions. The Occupy Movement hoped to use May 1st as a way to remind the world that they had never stopped protesting.
Our contributor writes: The Occupy Wall Street Guitararmy, along with thousands of other May Day marchers, headed from Bryant Park to Union Square this afternoon. After some brief scuffles with the NYPD the marches broke free of the sidewalks and occupied 5th Avenue and Broadway. The march arrived peacefully at Union Square.