UNION SQUARE — Thousands of labor protesters flooded Union Square for a May Day demonstration Wednesday afternoon, then marched down to Lower Manhattan.
Ringed by metal barricades and dozens of cops, the Union Square protesters chanted — "We stand for justice! The people united will never be defeated!" — as some pounded on drums and others waved signs denouncing student debt and advocating immigrants' rights.
The protest was part of a day of marches and teach-ins to mark International Workers' Day, including a heavily policed Occupy Wall Street march from Tompkins Square Park to Union Square, where the demonstrators spoke to the crowd from a stage.
At least five protesters were arrested in the demonstrations, The New York Times reported, but police would not immediately confirm the arrests.
After the Union Square protest, the demonstrators marched down Broadway to Foley Square and City Hall, shutting down traffic as they reached Houston Street, according to traffic expert Sam Schwartz.
"We want to unite workers and immigrants," said Laurie Smolensky, 29, a Lower East Side resident and a member of a group called New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform. "We are calling for better conditions, better labor practices and most importantly, passing immigration reform. Families are being torn apart from deportation. Working rights are being violated and the time is now."
Protesters spoke out about issues ranging from aid for Hurricane Sandy victims to the high cost of college, but most focused on rights for workers and unions.
"Workers' rights has decimated in past years," said Ted Alexandro, 44, a resident of Astoria. "People are working harder and harder for less and less. Support workers and support the poor."
Dozens of police also flocked Downtown in anticipation of the demonstrators' planned march. The NYPD put barricades around Lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park and the New York Stock Exchange, but as of early evening, there were only a few dozen protesters in the area and the demonstration appeared peaceful.
Occupy Wall Street held a small "memorial assembly" in Zuccotti Park Wednesday evening for 16-year-old Kimani Gray, who was shot dead by police earlier this year.
With reporting by Irene Plagianos and Ben Fractenberg