Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day

Worldwide - Demonstrations were held in cities across the globe to commemorate the International Worker's Day. Traditionally, the holiday was celebrated as part of the pagan festival of Beltane, but became a day for workers in 1886 when mostly immigrant anarchist labor leaders in the United States organized a series of strikes and protests in support of an eight-hour work day for ten hours worth of pay.

Although the movement was successful, a number of the leaders were executed by the state after a sham trial on conspiracy charges. Many radical organizers had been rounded up following a May 4th incident in which a bomb was thrown among a group of policemen in Chicago's Haymarket Square. The five unionists who were convicted and executed, or who died in prison, became know as the Haymarket Martyrs.

  • United States - Businesses closed and immigrant workers and their supporters marched by the hundreds of thousands in major cities across the US. This was the third in a series of nation-wide days of mass protest in support of freedom for immigrants and in opposition to H.R. 4437 (The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005). Minor confrontations took place in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles and Santa Ana, California.
  • Puerto Rico - Union members in Hato Rey smashed bank windows and destroyed property in the city's financial district while protesting against a proposed sales tax. The government was forced to close schools and suspended other nonessential public services due to the current financial crisis, of which they are hoping consumers will shoulder the burden. In San Jaun, marchers attacked police with rocks.
  • Mexico - Many Mexicans observed "A Day Without Gringos", a total boycott of all U.S. made products in solidarity with immigrants who are denied the right to live freely in the US. Various demonstrations were held outside the US Embassy in Mexico City, including one attended by the leader of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), Sub Comandante Marcos. Elsewhere in the city, anarchists vandalized US owned businesses, and unionists burned an effigy that represented politicians during a march.
  • Philippines - Following festive May Day rallies in city parks, about 8,000 anti-government protesters marched towards the presidential palace carrying a huge red streamer that read "Down with Gloria." Government troops and riot police stopped the march before it could reach its destination. Today's protests were part of a larger anti-government campaign to demand a wage increase and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's ouster.
  • Kolkata, India - In addition to the estimated 100,000 people who marched in the general celebratory May Day rally organized by the Centre for Indian Trade Unions, about 4,000 sex workers marched in the capital of in the Marxist-ruled state of West Bengal. The women silently marched through the city's largest red light district of Sonagachi, carrying flash lights and posters saying "live and let live" and "we demand social justice" to protest a proposed law that would ban prostitution.
    The sex industry in India involves hundreds of thousands of impoverished women who depend on their work to sustain themselves and their families. Gouri Roy, president of the Committee for Indomitable Women, the provincial sex workers' union, warned that, if ignored, "Sex workers will launch a massive protest across the state if the (Indian) government goes ahead with the amendment of the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act."
  • Istanbul, Turkey - May Day celebrations in Istanbul were mostly peaceful, and unofficially started with the laying of a commemorative wreath for those who died in the 1977 May Day massacre at Taksim Square, where snipers shot at a protest rally of 500,000 people, killing 38 and injuring hundreds. Coincidentally, the only violent incident of the day occurred when police attempted to disperse an un-permitted rally by the radical left-wing group "Struggle" in Taksim Square. Protesters were shouting slogans against the US and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) when police attacked the crowd with tear gas, pepper spray, and batons. Despite 34 people being detained countless others injured, the demonstrators remained defiant and refused to obey police orders.
  • Helsinki, Finland - Police fought anarchist protesters and attempted to extinguish bonfires in an industrial area that is scheduled to be razed in order to make way for a large music arena. Demonstrators occupied a number of the buildings which are slated to be destroyed and held off riot police until dawn in what police called an "exceptional occurrence." Earlier in the day anarchists groups held a rowdy march in the city's center that attracted a couple hundred people.
  • Zurich, Switzerland - About 4,000 anarchists and leftists fought running battles with police. Another group of about 100 radicals disrupted a speech by President Moritz Leuenberger and threw fireworks at him, forcing him to flee.
  • Germany - Anarchists and radical leftists held large traditional celebratory parades and fought traditional pitched street battles with neo-Nazis in numerous cities.