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Occupy 2012: Day 1 of protests yields a mixed review (+video)

Turnout for the Occupy movement's May Day protests was respectable in New York and Chicago. In some West Coast cities, police resorted to tear gas or pepper spray. Did the movement do itself any favors during its relaunch on Tuesday?

By Staff writer / May 2, 2012

Graffiti is seen covering a BART elevator during a May Day protest on Tuesday, May 1, in Oakland, Calif. Hundreds of activists across the US joined the worldwide May Day protests on Tuesday, with Occupy Wall Street members in several cities leading demonstrations.

Ben Margot/AP

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Los Angeles

The Occupy movement joined the world's busy May Day schedule Tuesday, in hopes of jump-starting a movement that had languished over the winter months.

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In their quest to regain the media buzz of their early tent-powered days, Occupyers in Chicago chanted anticorporate slogans at a downtown Bank of America office, and in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park, intellectuals held a “free university.” Police in Oakland, Calif., fired tear gas and in Seattle they pepper-sprayed protesters. 

While crowds were sizable in cities from New York to Oakland, analysts say the Occupy movement faces an uphill battle, in part because some protest groups have adopted tactics that confront law enforcement officers or disrupt the lives of average people. 

“I would give the effort a B,” says George Ciccariello-Maher, a professor of politics and history at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Although turnout was more than respectable in major cities such as New York and Chicago, the Occupy activists “will have to work hard to overcome the media images of such things as the bridge bomb plot in Ohio and the various skirmishes with police,” he says.

In all, about 66 people were arrested during the Occupy protests nationwide – 30 of those arrests in New York City.

The movement has challenges going forward, says Catherine Wilson, a political scientist at Villanova University in Philadelphia. “From the use of tear gas on Occupy supporters in Oakland to vandalism in the streets of Seattle, the May Day events showcased a range of skirmishes between movement participants and law enforcement,” she says via e-mail, adding that there were incidences of disrupting traffic and ferry service in other parts of the nation.

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