Thousands of protesters took to the streets, BART stations and banks around the Bay Area on Tuesday -- at times dancing to bongo drums in San Francisco or fleeing tear gas in Oakland -- to express frustration at economic inequality and corporate greed and renew momentum for the Occupy movement.
Protesters and union organizers shut down ferry service at the Larkspur and Sausalito terminals during the morning commute, marched to the Fruitvale BART station in East Oakland made famous by the police shooting death of Oscar Grant III, and in San Francisco swarmed a bank, and retook a vacant building owned by the Catholic Archdiocese on Turk Street. At least one person was hurt at the site when a protester on the roof hurled a brick into a crowd of demonstrators and police who were tussling below.
In Oakland, as a brigade of police made a noontime arrest on Broadway Avenue, more people raised their camera phones than protest signs and shouted "the whole world is watching you. We are not afraid." When some threw objects at windows as well as police, then refused orders to disperse, authorities exploded two tear gas bombs. At least nine people were arrested by early evening. At dusk, more than 5,000 people marched to Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, the place where violent and destructive riots broke out in the fall when police tried to clear out an Occupy encampment there.
On Tuesday afternoon, Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan warned protesters to remain peaceful: "If people are intent on hurting other people or property we aren't going to tolerate that."
The May Day demonstrations coincided with protests from coast to coast and continent to continent, all showing solidarity on a day often reserved to support workers' rights. What had promised to be the most ambitious of protests Tuesday -- a planned shutting down of the Golden Gate Bridge -- never materialized when union organizers decided to lend support to ferry workers instead.
The focus of the marches continued to center on the travails of the "99 percent" that make up America's poor and working classes. But Tuesday's demonstrations included activists representing issues ranging from education funding shortages, environmental degradation and immigrants' rights.
"We all have different views, but we understand collectively we are one and collectively we can make a difference," said Fisayo Lagundoye, 30, of Oakland, who was part of the 7,000-strong march in November that temporarily shut down the Port of Oakland. "We don't stop protesting. I'm here because I love Oakland. Occupy whatever."
Haleh Niazmand, 49, a professor at Modesto Junior College who joined the Oakland march, said peaceful demonstrations are one of the last effective ways for the working class to be heard in Washington: "What other way do you suggest when our politicians are bought and sold?"
Tuesday's demonstrations on a warm spring day were the largest since winter rains -- and police crackdowns -- drowned out many of the Occupy encampments across the country in November, including at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in Oakland, where many protesters reunited Tuesday. The Occupy Oakland movement, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street protests, became the center of national attention in October when riots broke out, blocks of downtown were vandalized, 100 people were arrested and Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen suffered a skull fracture when he was hit by what appeared to be a police projectile.
In contrast, Tuesday's demonstrations -- while marred by brief flare-ups between police and demonstrators -- were mostly peaceful by early evening. There were concerns, however, that nightfall could bring more violence. Protesters wearing black -- a typical uniform of so-called anarchists who have been blamed for much of the destruction in past Occupy protests -- were joining thousands of protesters heading to Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. Five vans with police in riot gear are stationed along the route.
"It's quite clear that the more violent and militant element will turn people off and turn people away from the message," said John Logan, a San Francisco State professor of labor and employment relations. Still, he said, the labor movement has been wise to team up with the Occupy movement.
"The big unions have been trying to get the national debate around these issues with very limited success," Logan said. "Then you have this group of kids demonstrating in a park who very quickly got national and international attention for what they were doing."
Earlier Tuesday, activists briefly shut down a Bank of the West branch on Broadway in Oakland. Across the bay in San Francisco, hundreds of marchers -- a mix of Latino workers, Occupy activists, lawyers and local hipsters -- moved along Mission Street, some chanting "Si se puede" and calling for an end to immigration raids. Some formed a picket at Westfield Mall in support of mall workers.
Suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi showed up to support the protesters, saying, "It's an important message the country should hear. This frustration doesn't just occur today, but all year round."
In Oakland, 20-year-old Zachary Fraser was briefly detained after chalking the entrance to a Wells Fargo Bank. Fraser was quickly released, to the cheers of the crowd.
"Most cops are good, decent people," Fraser said afterward. "They're just slaves to the system like we are."
Meanwhile, nurses were striking at Alta Bates hospital on Dwight Way and at Alta Bates Summit Hospital on Ashby Avenue in Berkeley. Protesters also demonstrated outside Alameda County Child Protective Services at Fourth Street and Broadway to support an Occupy protester whose children were taken away last month.
In San Jose, an estimated 750 to 1,000 people marched from East San Jose to downtown's City Hall as part of the protests. And, in Redwood City, dozens of Sequoia High School students cut class and protested on a residential sidewalk, waving signs with messages such as "Stop Cutting Our School Budgets" and cheering as honking cars drove past them.
Protests began a day early in San Francisco, where one person was arrested Monday night while participating in a march that vandalized vehicles, businesses and a police station in the Mission district. At the vacant Archdiocese building, where Occupiers had been evicted last month, protesters cut down a chain-link fence and reiterated their plans to use the space as a community center and headquarters for their movement. But George Wesolek, an Archdiocese spokesman, wants them removed.
"We're not the 1 percent," Wesolek said. "So why are they doing this to us?"
Staff writers Katy Murphy, Joshua Melvin, Chris De Benedetti, Harry Harris, Sean Maher, Robert Salonga, Thomas Peele, Kristin J. Bender, Scott Johnson, Matthias Gafni, Rick Hurd, Matthew Artz, Paul Rosynsky and Paul Thissen contributed to this report.