May Day Protests Snarl Traffic in Downtown LA

Drivers had to navigate around huge crowds of protesters Tuesday

By Conan Nolan and Neil Costes
|  Tuesday, May 1, 2012  |  Updated 7:31 PM PDT
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Conan Nolan, Kristopher Li

"It happens every May Day and it happens all over the world. I think it's properly appropriate,” says one commuter, who was among downtown drivers who had to navigate through thousands of demonstrators rallying for reasons ranging from education to immigration reform to better-paying jobs. Conan Nolan reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 1, 2012.

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It may not have been the intent, but International Workers' Day inconvenienced a lot of workers in Downtown LA.

Overall, it's an inconvenience LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said could not be avoided.

"We try to make the routes as well known as possible," Beck said. "This is a freedom of speech issue. We don't control all these marches, except to give them their permits, so we have to accommodate them the best that we can."

Thousands of workers, immigrant-rights activists and other protesters were taking part in May Day marches and rallies in support of causes ranging from better-paying jobs to immigration reform.

Rallies forced closures along Broadway from Olympic Boulevard to the Civic Center, making a normally difficult commute worse -- for drivers and public transit riders.

A perimeter secured City Hall Park from being re-occupied by demonstrators who spent nearly three months in the area as part of an Occupy Los Angeles enclave.

It wasn't the most productive day for city workers, some of whom were sent home early because of the traffic.

A driver on his way to work said jammed streets put a kink in his commute.

"Not to go through, and to go through this," he said, referencing all the blocked off streets to help accommodate Tuesday's marches.

Still, others took the day in stride.

"It happens every May Day and it happens all over the world," one commuter said. "I think it's properly appropriate."

The normal lunch crowd vanished, hurting the pocketbooks of at least one vendors who sets up shop each day on the streets of Downtown LA. She said business was "pretty slow."

There was plenty of work, however, for the scores of police officers deployed to keep things under control.

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