Demonstrators Ring in May with Calls for Workers Rights, Immigration Reform

Thousands of people gathered Wednesday in Union Square and marched downtown for the annual May Day rally. 

Demonstrators hoped to draw attention to the challenges facing workers, immigrants and the environment. Brooklyn activist Brian Dawson was enjoying the festive atmosphere. He said he hopes the protest helps change society, but even if it doesn’t, it helps energize people like him.

"I think this builds more morale and more unity – people uniting for one cause," Dawson said. "It’s something like a pep rally."

Images of Che Guevara and the Soviet hammer-and-sickle adorned demonstrators. Labor unions and activists spoke out on everything from immigration reform to a ban on fracking.

Police were out in force. The gathering appeared to be peaceful, but by early evening there were a handful of arrests.

Participants said the gathering was smaller than last year’s, which came on the heels of the “Occupy” movement.

Although the group was largely peaceful, police said by early Wednesday evening a handful of people had been arrested.

Pamela Garcia, from the Rugby Neighborhood Alliance, in Brooklyn, brought young students to the event to teach them about civic participation and the right to assembly.

"Essentially, we're just trying to get the young people to understand a little bit more about what it takes to get some of their needs met and how to organize in a positive format," Garcia said, "to really get some of the points across that they would like to in the future."