April 2, 2008

May Day 2008 Wrap Up

A spirited and very diverse crowd met in Union Square, NYC and marched to Foley Square. Although other activities took place and converged at Foley Square, this group took a route past ICE Headquarters, and for me, that was a highlight of the march. The crowd stood in front of the building pumping fists in the air, chanting Sí! Se Puede! Young anarchists, old
wobblies, anti-war activists, and independent citizens demanding amnesty for immigrants and justice for Sean Bell all converged to make May Day A-okay for all NYC workers (even the police!).

Marchers for immigrant rights revive spirit of May Day
By Joe Rodriguez, Mercury News
05/02/2008 01:37:17 AM PDT
On the first day of May, immigrant workers, many with children in tow, marched from East San Jose to City Hall accompanied by a boisterous range of supporters from students to retirees.
Though the turnout of 1,500 to 2,000 marchers was far lower than the massive crowd of two years ago, their fledgling immigrant-rights movement seems to be taking hold and more - they just may bring May Day back from oblivion.
"Actually, the original May Day was organized by immigrants back in the 1800s," said Jim Kelly, who teaches labor studies at San Jose City College. "The fact that they're reclaiming it and bringing it to the forefront is a positive thing."
Marches around the country - Miami, Washington, D.C., Houston, Tucson, Milwaukee, Salem, Ore. - also drew sharply smaller turnouts than in previous years. The largest was in Chicago where 15,000 marchers took to the streets. Two years ago there were 400,000 in the Midwest city.
In San Jose, Jose Sandoval, one of the key organizers of the local march, explained that while May Day may be unfamiliar to most Americans, it is not to Latino immigrants. May 1 is Mexico's official Labor Day.
"Throughout Latin America," Sandoval said, "it's known as International Workers Day. It's only natural for us to march for immigrants' rights on this day." [BTW—It’s also a national holiday in Italy, with most folks getting the day off]
[...] Salvador Bustamante, a labor leader and one of the 2006 organizers, says the selection of May Day two years ago was a coincidence, not an intentional decision to resurrect the old labor holiday.
"Congress was getting ready to act," Bustamante said. "There was a lot of fear in the community at the time. That was just the day that was close by, and we thought we could make something big happen."
Coincidence or not, being adapted to modern times is a familiar story for the First of May.
[...] But May Day as a seasonal and labor holiday effectively ended during the height of the Cold War in 1958, when Congress declared May 1 "Loyalty Day." But even as the Maypoles fell limp on school playgrounds, Loyalty Day never took hold outside of a few towns. Meanwhile, Big Labor migrated to Labor Day in September.
"They branded May Day as communist," said Fred Hirsch, a retired plumber and board member of Plumbers and Fitters Local 393. He was among the few traditional union members who marched Thursday. "What's happening is that the immigrant workers are bringing back its focus."
Whether traditional unions re-embrace May Day is an open question.[...]
West Coast ports closed by worker protest
Thu May 1, 2008 5:55pm EDT
By Jill Serjeant and Bernard Woodall
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ports along the U.S. West Coast, including the country's busiest port complex in Los Angeles, shut down on Thursday as some 10,000 dock workers went on a one-day strike to protest the war in Iraq, port and union officials said.
Twenty-nine ports from San Diego to Washington state that handle more than half of U.S waterborne trade ground to a halt, but shipping experts said the economic costs of the walk-out would be limited.
[...] The International Longshore and Warehouse Union said some 10,000 workers joined the anti-war protest, spurred in part by its belief that big shipping companies are profiting from the war.
"Longshore workers are standing down on the job and standing up for America," said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath. "We're supporting the troops and telling politicians in Washington that it's time to end the war in Iraq." [...]
Port cargo workers take the day off to protest of Iraq War
12:08 p.m. May 1, 2008
Port workers at cargo terminals in San Diego and National City joined their counterparts at other West Coast port facilities in a May Day work stoppage to protest the Iraq War.
The 40 scheduled for the 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift today did not show up, said Ron Popham, the maritime director at the San Diego Unified Port District, which operates the two cargo facilities.
But William Silva, president of Local 29 of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, said the number was 500, counting casual, part-time, fill-in and other union laborers. Silva said 25,000 dock workers from San Diego to Alaska were participating in the work action. [my bold]
“Today we are standing for the majority of Americans who are against the Iraq War,” Silva said in an interview. “We're Democrats, Republicans and independents, and we're sending a signal to our politicians that it's time to get out of Iraq now.”
Silva said the union supports the troops and wants to bring them home safely.
[...] The work stoppage had a larger impact on ports in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland and Seattle, which are the primary gateways for container shipments from the Far East and other foreign ports. San Diego is a niche port that handles few goods shipped by container.[...]
In Germany, May Day celebrations hit with scattered violence, arrests
The Associated Press
Published: May 1, 2008
Police used water cannons to break up clashes between leftist and rightist groups in Hamburg during May Day protests on Thursday.About 7,000 people gathered in Hamburg to protest a march of the far-right National Democratic Party. The leftist protesters threw bottles and stones at officers trying to keep the groups apart and set several cars on fire, including one belonging to police. Several officers were injured.
About 1,000 far-right extremists traveled to Hamburg for march. Police said it was the worst violence the city had seen in recent years.
[...] About 7,000 people gathered in Hamburg to protest a march of the far-right National Democratic Party. The leftist protesters threw bottles and stones at officers trying to keep the groups apart and set several cars on fire, including one belonging to police. Several officers were injured.
[...] Demonstrators stole materials from a nearby construction site to erect barricades on at least one city street, police said, adding that rocks were thrown at the windows of a kiosk containing cash machines. Several small fires were lit. Police used water cannons to extinguish the fires, and the protest ended shortly after midnight.
In Berlin, police arrested 24 people late Wednesday night at a rowdy party in the Mauerpark, situated along the path where the Berlin Wall once stood. One police officer was slightly injured when revelers threw glass bottles and rocks, said Hansjoerg Draeger, a spokesman for Berlin police. Two cars were set ablaze.[...]
Turkish police disperse workers defying May Day ban
From the Associated Press, 9:11 AM PDT, May 1, 2008
ISTANBUL -- Turkish riot police used clubs, tear gas and water cannons today to break up crowds of workers and students trying to reach a main Istanbul square for a Labor Day rally banned by the government.
Authorities said more than 500 demonstrators were detained and six police officers were injured.
[...] The government had banned celebrations at the square, citing security concerns, and asked labor unions to hold festivities at other locations. The government reinforced the Istanbul police force with teams from other cities, and a police helicopter hovered above the city center.
Officials set up barricades in and around the square where May Day celebrations have been banned since 1977, when unknown gunmen opened fire on demonstrators, causing a stampede that left several dozen dead.
"Long live May 1!" and "Everywhere is Taksim!" the protesters shouted today, in addition to slogans denouncing the government.
[...] Clashes also broke out at a rally in the capital, Ankara. Police fired tear gas to disperse a stone- and stick-throwing crowd. At least one person was rushed to hospital, suffering respiratory problems.
Tensions between protesters and police ebbed slowly after unions said they would abandon plans to march to Taksim.
"We could continue to rally there but the damage would be great. We did not want to harm ordinary people and shop owners," said Suleyman Celebi, head of a large confederation of labor unions. "Eventually, we will be there."
[...] Turkey had stopped marking May 1 as Labor Day after a 1980 military coup. Leaders had regarded the festivities as an opportunity for leftist activism.
Labor unions gradually resumed marking the day after the coup. Some demonstrations turned violent when protesters tried to enter Taksim to commemorate the workers who died in 1977. [An unknown gunmen opened fire on demonstrators, killing 37 people.]
Last year, hundreds of demonstrators were detained.

May Day celebrations turn violent
Workers rally across the world on May Day but many demonstrations are marred by clashes between police and protesters


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