While a total of roughly 400 people participated in International Workers Day events in Riverside on May First 2012, only about 180 made it to the afternoon rally at Bordwell Park on Martin Luther King Boulevard in the Eastside. As the marchers began arriving at the park from City Hall, several young men whom a police officer apparently considered "defiant" walked in the street, at the corner of MLK and Kansas, and one of them was tackled by an officer. Another officer was seen a moment later bringing his truncheon down sharply on an unarmed, unresisting demonstrator, and about a hundred demonstrators immediately lined the sidewalk facing the officer, shouting "Shame on you!" repeatedly. Within two minutes, some 30 police cars (marked and unmarked) screeched to a halt along the street, and the police formed a truncheon-wielding line that advanced on the demonstrators. Many who had been approaching the park turned around when they were stopped by the police line, and walked away from the park. A group of Mayday demonstrators that had gathered at Riverside City College, in telephone communication with others in Bordwell Park, ended up dispersing, and most did not arrive at the park.
The group of demonstrators just west of the park, stopped by the police line, partly dispersed to the west and south, but after several minutes the police formed up and forced the remaining group eastward into the park (where they were heading anyway). Jeered by some neighborhood youths, and constantly photographed and videotaped by dozens of alert monitors and demonstrators, the police halted in the street. The organizers of the march urged demonstrators to resume the rally in the park, and most of those present gathered around the speakers and turned their backs to the police. Unable to provoke any additional confrontations in the street, and apparently under orders not to advance into the park, the police began leaving the immediate area after about 15 minutes, and had no further interaction with the main group of demonstrators except for the occasional exhibition-of-speed drive-by.
Tables in the park (including a Peace and Freedom Party voter registration table) did a fairly brisk business in political literature and petition-signing, and almost everyone in attendance received literature urging voters to register in the Peace and Freedom Party and vote for Marsha Feinland for U.S. Senate. Only a few voters were registered, because most in attendance were already politically active and registered or were under 18 or not U.S. citizens. Speakers represented a number of organizations, including Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC), Occupy Riverside, and several immigrant groups. Occupy Riverside gave out free books, clothes, and toys, and a long line gathered at the food table. Many demonstrators wore union tee-shirts or caps. As the rally proceeded, an investigator for the organizers interviewed those who had witnessed the police attack, taking notes and gathering addresses and phone numbers. It was reported that legal action would follow.
As a native Riversider I am very pleased that a May First march and rally for human rights has become an annual event in my home town, and I look forward to larger rallies in coming years. The only working-class Left party on the California ballot, the Peace and Freedom Party, will be there every time.