International Workers’ Day, commonly known as May Day, is a holiday celebrated on May 1st to honor the struggles of workers around the world. It was created by socialists in the Second Internationale to commemorate the police-instigated Haymarket Massacre.
The Haymarket Massacre of 1886 began as a peaceful demonstration to demand an eight-hour work day, a movement that had been escalating for years. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and American industrial capitalism, workers had been laboring in harrowing conditions 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week. Desiring better conditions, the eight hour work day and a 40-hour workweek became near-universal demands in the US by the 1860s, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of workers across the country.
In the year the Haymarket Massacre took place, the number of strikes for the eight hour work day nationwide had doubled from the previous year, affecting 11,000 businesses. On May 1st, 1886, a general strike was called across the US and Canada to demand an eight hour workday. In Chicago alone, 60,000 workers walked off their jobs. On the afternoon of May 3rd, workers rallied, and in an act of intimidation, hundreds of police officers began firing into a crowd at random, killing several and wounding many. The next day, a demonstration took place in Haymarket Square to protest the police brutality and call for peaceful action. Near the end of the rally, an unknown person threw a bomb into a group of police. Police retaliated, attacking unarmed workers in a riot that resulted in the deaths of eight people. Before the bomb had been thrown, the mayor himself had described the rally as peaceful.
In the aftermath of the riot, Chicago police shut down labor halls and hundreds of suspects, mainly immigrants, were interrogated and held without charge. Eight anarchists—who had no connection to the bombing–were arrested. With evidence for the allegations sparse in their incredibly unjust trial, the prosecutor used their radical beliefs as reason to convict them. Seven were sentenced to death, and one committed suicide.
Mainstream news blamed the Haymarket Massacre on the eight-hour workday movement instead of the police who had instigated the riot. Combined with the Red Scare that followed, the movement lost momentum, and the eight-hour workday was not enacted until the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Today, we celebrate May Day to remember the injustice of the Haymarket Massacre and bring attention to the continuing struggles of the working class. It is celebrated worldwide through demonstrations, rallies, protests, strikes, and riots.
So what should you do this May Day? Past Seattle May Days have brought Black Lives Matter protests, immigrant and workers rights rallies, and anti-capitalist riots to the streets. This year’s May Day includes:
1:00 PM: Rally and program at Judkins Park Playfield (2150 S Norman St)
2:45 PM — 3:00 PM: March departs from St. Mary’s Church (611 20th Ave South) and ends at the Federal Courthouse (700 Stewart St) in downtown Seattle
“The 2016 march will mark the 10 year anniversary of the 2006 mega-marches, which were organized to counter what seemed to be the imminent implementation of the draconian H.R. 4437 legislation*. The massive mobilization which brought millions to the streets across the country, effectively killed the bill. The subsequent demobilization of the movement in favor of electoral “victories,” instead led to the continuation of many Bush-era policies as the promise of immigration reform never came to pass, and right-wing discourse aided in the criminalization and dehumanization of undocumented immigrants. As a result, despite bipartisan cowardice in addressing a very real humanitarian issue, we continue to fight to ensure that our community members are treated with dignity and respect. As workers, as community members, we invite all our sisters and brothers in labor, faith, and social justice to join us once again this year. May 1st is our holiday in which we celebrate the workers and the members of our communities on the social and economic margins that struggle every day for a more dignified existence….In the spirit of unity and solidarity with communities across the country, organizers in Seattle will continue with the central theme of justice for immigrant workers, unconditional documentation for all, as well as justice for social and economically marginalized communities at the local, national, and international levels.”
*The Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 proposed an increase in border security and the further criminalization of illegal immigration. It passed in the House, but after pressure from the massive US Immigration Reform protests in 2006, died in the Senate.
2:30 PM: Rally at Jaam Rek Studios (2000 S Jackson St), meet on the NW corner of 20th and Jackson
“Join us on May 1st, to be part of a contingency centered on womxn and families of color at the International Workers and Immigrants Day March. We call on others to march together with the Womxn and Families contingent, to demand justice for survivors of violence, human trafficking, gentrification, and racial/gender/economic injustice. We do not want oppressive systems that harm, criminalize, displace, or exploit… We do want basic needs, dignity, and respect for all people and Mother Earth!
Bring your children, parents, grandparents, friends, lovers, partners, platonic sweethearts, chosen families, collectives, and anyone in your life you consider family! We will ensure an accessible pace and shuttle for those who need it, as well as a caring anti-oppressive space.”
10AM-5PM at Westlake Park (401 Pine St) in Downtown Seattle
“What better way to build community and solidarity than through heartfelt speeches and music? It’s time to build bridges and work toward a society based on mutual aid, cooperation, and free association, instead of authoritarianism and hierarchy. A better world starts with you! MC’d by Ryannah Quigley! With bands:
On the Ground
May Day Anticapitalist March
6PM at Westlake Park (401 Pine St)
“For one reason or another folks have decided to start this years Seattle May Day Anticapitalist March in Westlake Park. Tactical concerns aside this May Day could make for a pretty wonderful time. The last several May Days have crafted a tradition of “riotous play” that continues to bring lived revolt against capitalism and the state to the streets of Seattle. If your reading this and wondering why capitalism and the state are undesirable suffice to say that all forms of rulership are undesirable. Capitalism is the rule of capital and the state is a entity who rules. Capitalism—along with its predecessors like mercantilism, different organized religions, feudalism, and so on—has worked in tandem with nation-states and empires to create this hellworld we now occupy. Poverty, in its totality, is not an accident. State violence, in its totality, is not an accident. These are the results of the current ruling order whose main pillars are white supremacy, heteronormativity, cisnormativity, capitalism, and statecraft.” –Anonymous, Puget Sound Anarchists
Keep in mind that this particular event is an annual riot, meaning there will be property destruction and a high risk of police violence. Please inform yourself on how to riot responsibly if you choose to attend.
Happy May Day!