One man on the corner wore a mock security uniform with a badge that said "we are the 99 percent." He said he was keeping order among the group and told one man to tear up a sign that said "(expletive) the police."
"I like to resolve issues. I will get rid of the problem if there is one. We want a clean protest," said Tony Norris.
Eventually several dozen Occupy demonstrators headed west through the Loop toward a noon rally at Union Park. Traffic stopped at several intersections while the protesters walked through. Bicycle officers lined up to try and prevent protesters from marching in the streets, but many protesters ran ahead and back into the roadway.
Onlookers watched from the windows of office towers or shot photos and videos of the march from the sidewalk.
"Get a job, you jerks!" a man in a suit yelled as the protesters crossed Wacker Drive.
The traditional May Day rally at Union Park on the Near West Side had as many as 1,000 people supporting labor and human rights causes. Union members, anti-war protesters and supporters of the Communist and Socialist parties were all in attendance. Vendors sold cotton candy.
Among the speakers was Andy Thayer, the leader of an anti-war group planning a major NATO demonstration on the first day of the summit, May 20. Also attending were controversial activists Bill Ayers, right, and Bernardine Dohrn.
Organizers passed out signs as a guitarist led a sing-along in Spanish, standing on a flatbed truck adorned with a banner that read: "Legalize Hard Working Immigrants."
Jim Rhodes, 71, of Logan Square was holding one end of a yellow banner that read "Health Care is a Human Right". A retired purchasing manager for an aluminum company and a grandfather of six, Rhodes said he belongs to a group that advocates for an expansion of Medicare to be the single-payer health provider for the whole country.
"I'm doing this for my kids and my grandkids," he said. "We want everyone to get a Medicare card when they're born and to give it up when they die."
Rhodes said the group brought 40 to 50 members today and they also plan to demonstrate on the NATO weekend at both the May 18 march organized by the California Nurses Association and the anti-war march on May 20.
As rain fell around 1:30 p.m., hundreds of May Day demonstrators left Union Park and headed downtown toward Federal Plaza.
McCarthy watched from a vantage point under a tree on the parkway at Washington and Ogden. As the march progressed, numerous police officers walked along the edges of the demonstration, maintaining a visible but low-profile presence in their normal blue-shirt duty uniforms.
As the march progressed, numerous police officers walked along the edges of the demonstration, maintaining a visible but low-profile presence in their normal blue-shirt duty uniforms.
Three to four bicycle officers stretched across each side street intersection to ensure the march did not splinter. And at times as marchers spilled on to the sidewalks police directed them back onto the street.
Early in the march someone lit firecrackers in the crowd. Some officers peered into the crowd but police did not seem concerned.
Deputy Chief Matt Tobias said: "you can tell the difference" between gunfire and firecrackers.
Closer to federal plaza, several trailers of police horses and their officer riders were standing by for crowd control.
As the march passed a Chase bank branch along Washington Street, protesters started chanting obscenities about JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon.
As the march crossed a ramp leading to Interstate 90-94, police tried but failed to halt marchers for traffic backed up on the off ramp. A few trucks on the highway honked as the march went by.