MAY DAY – May 1st – has been celebrated as International Worker’s Day since 1890. The date was chosen by members of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket Affair which occurred in Chicago, United States in 1886: On May 1st 1886 American unions held a nationwide general strike. An estimated 400,000 workers went on strike in Chicago. In the days following the strike, seven anarchists were framed and sentenced to death after a bomb was thrown at the police during a rally called on May 4th in response to an act of police violence following the strike outside the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company on May 3rd that left six workers dead.
For a full history of the Haymarket Affair, the Haymarket Martyrs and the origins of May Day please watch this talk by Bristol Radical History Group from 2012 at Hydra Books.
Across the world yesterday workers took to the streets to celebrate International Worker’s Day (1st May)! We have complied below a incomplete list of actions from around the globe. With this list we hope to showcase the sheer size and diversity of the modern worker’s movements:
- Small groups of anarchists joined trade unionists and communists in London, England for a march and rally which descended on Trafalgar Square;
- Clashes broke out in Istanbul, Turkey after police tried to prevent thousands of demonstrators from following their traditional march route;
- Thousands of people joined May Day marches in Madrid, Spain one of many being held in over 80 cities across the country;
- Demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia were attended by thousands of people. In St. Petersburg a large “rainbow column” protested the criminalization of the promotion of homosexuality in the city by waving rainbow flags and displaying various pro-LGBTQ slogans;
- A 24 hour general strike in Athens, Greece brought the city to a standstill. Trains and ferries stood dormant as thousands of workers marched across the capital against austerity;
- The traditional May Day demonstration in Berlin, Germany brought out 10,000 people as the city government drafted in 7,000 auxiliary police in an attempt to control the march;
- Elsewhere in Germany 2,500 people marched in Nuremberg; 700 in Stuttgart; 200 in Bonn for a specifically anarchist rally; 450 in Rostock and a further 2,000 in Hamburg;
- In Copenhagen, Denmark a action called by AFA (Anti-Fascist Action) and Libertarian Socialists gathered around 800 to 1,000 participants and the Mayor of Copenhagen was booed off stage as he tried to address the May Day rally;
- Similar scenes in Aarhus, Denmark led to the Prime Minister being shot with a water pistol and being booed off stage;
- 30 people were arrested on a May Day demonstration in Tbilisi, Georgia after police attempted to disperse the previously peaceful march;
- May Day rallies also took place in various cities across Europe including: Paris, Marseille and Strasbourg, France; Sofia, Bulgaria; Seville, Andalusia; Barcelona, Catalonia; Bucharest, Romania; Zagreb, Croatia; Malmo, Sweden; Kiev, Ukraine; Turin, Italy; Lisbon, Portugal; Vienna, Austria and Vladivostok, Russia.
- Protestors “ran riot” in Seattle, US after 150-200 people stayed after dark for a “non-permitted” demonstration which left eight police officers injured. The protest followed an earlier march in support of immigrant rights organised by labour activists, students and civil rights advocates;
- Thousands of people also rallied in New York City, US. The march headed down Broadway late in the afternoon for a rally at City Hall and was scheduled to finish at the original home of Occupy Wall Street Zucotti Park;
- In Chicago, US – birthplace of International Worker’s Day – thousands again marched in demand for immigrant and worker’s rights. Anarchists occupied the statue to commemorate the Haymarket Affair draping it in the black flags of anarchy;
- Protestors in Washington D.C., US veered off of the planned march route and stormed a GAP clothing store in protest against their business practices (i.e. employing sweat shop labour). They later marched on the White House where they were confronted by White Pride demonstrators. A brief scuffle followed, which had to be broken up by uniformed Secret Service members;
- 447 people were arrested in Montreal, Canada at a march organised by Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC). Police declared the protest illegal shortly after it began despite a festive and peaceful atmosphere;
- In Vancouver, Canada a black bloc with flaming torches led a March of well over 100 people through the centre.
- Protests were also held across North America including: Los Angeles, San Fransico, Denver, Oakland and Portland in US and Ottawa, Canada.
- Pro- and Anti-Government protestors held rival May Day rallies in Caracas, Venezuela. Tensions are still high after the election results were disputed by opposition candidate Henrique Capriles leading to scenes of violence across the country;
- In Havana, Cuba protestors flooded Revolution Square carrying photos of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez with the words “Our Best Friend”;
- More than 150,000 filled the streets of Santiago, Chile on International Worker’s Day. Clashes with the police led to over 120 people being arrested and 40 police officers being injured;
- May Day marches in Bogota, Colombia ended in clashes after police attacked protestors who fought back and attacked several banks;
- President Evo Morales speaking at the annual May Day march in La Paz, Bolivia said he is expelling USAID from the country for allegedly seeking to undermine his government;
- Protestors burned effigies of President Enrique Pena Nieto at a May Day event in Mexico City and fought police in Oaxaca, Mexico.
- Workers braved the rain in Lagos, Nigeria to take part in May Day rallies;
- Hundreds of workers and trade unions in Tunis, Tunisia protested the interim government, which they claim, has hijacked the revolution that ousted former long-term President Ben Ali for their own goals;
- Demonstrations were also held in Marrakesh, Morocco under the slogan: “Free All Political Prisoners in Morocco”;
- Egyptian anarchists and other radicals held a demonstration in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt.
- The Iraqi Communist party held a huge May Day demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq;
- In Karachi, Pakistan workers held a torch-lit march on the eve of May Day demanding improvements to working conditions;
- Activists waved Lebanese and communist flags during a demonstration in Beirut, Lebanon to mark Labour Day.
- Anarchists joined a block organised by ACF Unity in Tel Aviv, Israel as part of wider celebrations to mark International Worker’s Day in the city;
- Demonstrations were also held in Gaza, Occupied Palestine to demand better working conditions and access to work.
- Tens of thousands of garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh protested again against poor working conditions which has recently led to the death of over 400 people after a garment factory collapsed and caught fire. They demanded the execution of textile bosses who are responsible for the disaster;
- May Day demonstrations were held across India including rallies in: Tumkur, Ramagundam, Bangalore and throughout Nizamabad district, Karimnagar district, and Adilabad district.
- Sixteen May Day rallies were held in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Members of the leftist People’s Liberation Front carried photos of Engels and Lenin on their demonstration;
- 10,000 people marched in Hong Kong, China with striking dock workers leading the charge for better working conidtions;
- Trade unions held demonstrations in Tokyo, Japan demanding more jobs for young people;
- Thousands of workers took to the streets and waved flags in Seoul, South Korea to ask for an extensive revision of the labour law;
- More than 10,000 people marched in Taipei, Taiwan against government plans to cut pensions;
- Over 5,000 workers in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia rallied for better working conditions and higher wages. Cambodia is the world’s third-largest producer of garments most of which are exported to Europe and the US;
- Thousands of people joined May Day demonstrations in Jakarta, Indonesia demanding higher pay and other demands. Some protested a proposal for the government to slash fuel subsidies that have kept the country’s pump prices among the cheapest in the region;
- Protesters in Manila, Philippines burned effigies of Barack Obama and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III outside the U.S. Embassy as 8,000 people rallied against contractual work, low wages and union busting.
- Queensland saw its biggest May Day march in over a decade
Anarchists took part in (and in some cases organised) demonstrations across the globe yesterday. It is inspiring to see such a wide display of diversity from the international anarchist movement with comrades from every corner of the planet coming out onto the streets to celebrate May Day and fight for worker’s rights!
The majority of demonstrations in the United Kingdom will be taking place this Saturday 4th May including a rally and march against austerity organised by Bristol Trades Council for 11AM at College Green. There has been a call-out by Bristol 1st of May Group for a Radical Block on the march. Come join Bristol Anarchist Federation and other anarchists/radicals under the red & black flags!