Aside from pushing and shoving and a relatively paltry 50 arrests, the May Day protests yesterday were largely peaceful. The credit for that should go to the police officers assigned yesterday to the protests throughout lower Manhattan.
The cops held it together even though many of them had to work ridiculous hours and face verbal abuse from some protesters. Ordered to bring helmets and batons, cops started arriving before midnight on Tuesday and some worked up to 24 hours, a lot of it standing on posts hour after hour, which is mind numbing work.
“I was worried about violence, I don’t want to get hurt, nobody wants to get hurt,” one police officer tells the Voice. “But it went pretty smoothly all things considered. It was pretty peaceful.”
This officer worked about 18 hours and was sent home at about 3 a.m. as one of hundreds of officers pulled from around the city to staff the protests. He was repeatedly “reposted,” or sent to different locations as the protests moved from union square toward downtown. Another cop helped escort protesters to City Hall.
“Over the radio, you heard about arrests here and there, but I didn’t think the protesters were a problem; a lot were polite,” this officer says. “By the end, we were just sitting around doing nothing. I just wanted to go home. I’m sore from all that walking.”
Some officers saw the numbers of cops assigned as “overkill.” The entire uniformed staff of One Police Plaza was placed on alert, and precincts throughout the city lost patrol strength through the day.
“It definitely cost the the city a lot of overtime,” an officer says. “The effect of working that much is you’re tired, and it’s not a good idea to have a cop who’s not well-rested. You don’t think straight. It goes to show that there aren’t enough cops in the department. It seems like it’s easier for headquarters to make us work these long days than hire more people.”
Noting the irony of police officers literally guarding the stock exchange, he added: “I guess a lot of people think we’re all united with Bloomberg, but some of the cops actually agree with some of their beliefs. They have a right to be out there.”