NEW YORK (AP) -- Hundreds of activists with a variety of causes spread out over New York City Tuesday on International Workers Day, or May Day, with Occupy Wall Street members leading a charge against financial institutions.
Police in riot gear lined the front of Bank of America Corp. on West 42nd Street, facing several dozen Occupy activists marching behind police barricades.
"Bank of America, bad for America!" they chanted.
Julian Kliner, 22, said protesters' main issue with the banking giant is "how many people the Bank of America foreclosed as a result of predatory lending." He said the bank also financed projects that were environmentally questionable.
Occupy activists had said they planned to bring business to a standstill on May Day, but the crowds protesting in the rain Tuesday morning were modest. Organizers had called for protesters to block one or more bridges or tunnels, but there was no evidence of success by midday.
Key May Day protests were also planned in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Chicago.
Protesters gathered at Bryant Park in Manhattan and prepared to march to various large financial institutions.
The crowd grew to several hundred toward noon, with a drum-and-brass live band as a soundtrack. John Connors, 31, a financial analyst, took the day off, as well as his shirt, revealing a chest with the words "Black Hole of Finance" painted on it.
Threatening letters containing a white powder that appeared to be corn starch were sent to some institutions, apparently meant to frighten mailroom employees.
Three letters were received Tuesday, two at News Corp. headquarters and addressed to the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, and one to Citigroup. Seven letters were received Monday at various banks and one to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The message in Tuesday's letters said "Happy May Day."
"This is a reminder that you are not in control. Just in case you needed some incentive to stop working," the letters read, according to authorities.
Another group picketed outside New York University to protest the university's expansion plans in Greenwich Village.
Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, where the Occupy movement began in September, was empty Tuesday morning except for a few police officers. Nearby Wall Street was heavily barricaded as office workers streamed by on their way to work.
More than 700 Occupy protesters were arrested Oct. 1 as they tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. The city broke the Zuccotti camp up in November, citing sanitary and other concerns, but the movement has held smaller events and protests periodically since then.
Associated Press writers Samantha Gross and Colleen Long contributed to this report.