More Than 100 US May Day Protests Planned, International Activists Arrested

Most Americans are familiar with Labor Day, but they may not have heard of the international day of worker solidarity known as May Day. At the height of the Cold War, May Day parades were associated with socialism, and in a quest to distance itself from the dirty deeds of the Soviet Union, Congress instead designated May 1 as “Loyalty Day.” Today, we celebrate workers’ struggles on Labor Day, the first Monday in September.  It’s unfortunate that many Americans lost the memory of May Day because in failing to celebrate the holiday, US workers are deprived of the spirit of solidarity they used to share with international workers. However, that doesn’t mean that May Day is completely forgotten within the United States. The San Jose May 1 Coalition is hosting a march for immigration rights, while the protests of Governor Scott Walker continue in Wisconsin. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will speak at Milwaukee’s May Day march today in one of more than 100 marches and rallies that will be held across the country. The AFL-CIO is live-blogging May Day actions and also tweeting updates under the hashtag #MayDay. In a written statement, the union’s blog reads: “These rallies and marches will show workers’ rights and immigrant rights are connected.” Christine Neumann-Ortiz, founder and executive director of Voces de la Frontera, says that there is now “an unprecedented alliance” between labor and immigrant rights communities in the wake of Walker’s bill that eliminate bargaining rights for public workers. “We want to send a message to corporate America, politicians and others that working people will not be divided,” she says. VDLF’s website features a video in Spanish advertising the Wisconsin solidarity May 1 march. Sheila Cochran, secretary-treasurer of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and its chief operating officers tells the Journal Sentinel that instead Continue Reading

Massive May Day Protests Planned to Campaign for Workers’ Rights

In light of efforts to strip public employees of collective bargaining in Wisconsin and the anti-union bills introduced in at least twelve states, planned May Day protests have taken on a new, more significant meaning this year. Events will focus on the customary issues of workers’ and immigrants’ rights, but also collective bargaining, and budget and pension cuts that affect not just the working class but their families and communities, as well. Downtown Los Angeles will be filled with protesters this Sunday in what has become an annual pro-immigration reform march. California is known for its legendary May Day protests. In 2006, a quarter of a million people poured into the streets of San Jose in what is known as the largest political demonstration in Northern California history. That year, the protest was centered on the Illegal Immigration Control Act, which would have criminalized undocumented immigrants. The protest effectively stopped the bill in is tracks, according to Mercury News. This year, activists will be calling on President Obama to stop deportations and provide “legalization or no re-election,” says Celina Benitez of Southern California Immigration Coalition. SCIC is also protesting in solidarity of all workers’ rights to organize. Wisconsin’s May Day march will of course be focused on union busting, but also keeping in-state tuition for immigrant students, opposing Arizona-type legislation that targets immigrants, and preventing budget cuts. The event is sponsored by the immigrant rights organization Voces de la Frontera with support and mobilization efforts coming from a variety of unions, including: Wisconsin’s AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers Local 212, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in Wisconsin, the Painters and Allied Trades Local 781, Service Employees Local 1, and more unions. In other Wisconsin news, the Students for a Democratic Continue Reading

May Day Warning From the University of California President: ‘Avoid All Protests’

A May Day warning has been issued to the ten-campus University of California system by office of the president, Mark G. Yudoff: “Avoid all protests.” This warning came in an e-mail, sent to all campuses, issued by Connexxus, the university’s travel management program, headed “Travel Alert—Protests across US Tuesday May 1st.” “Various activist groups will stage protests, rallies, and marches across the US on May 1,” the president’s office reported. “The Occupy Wall Street movement has called for a general strike, asking participants to abstain from work and economic activity on the same date.” The message, apparently sent to all students, faculty and staff, was addressed to “anyone” traveling to cities where demonstrations had been planned. Under “Impact,” the message declared, “Transport, business disruptions; possible scuffles with police.” The advice for May 1: “Allow additional time for ground transportation near protest sites.  Avoid all demonstrations as a precaution.” I asked the president, via e-mail, “Why not inform UC people of the opportunity to JOIN these protests?” He didn’t respond. The previous “Travel Alert” from the president’s office concerned Japan after the Fukushima disaster in June, 2011. Apparently May Day in the US ranks with nuclear meltdown in Japan in posing potential dangers to travelers from the University of California. The danger to University of California travelers apparently is especially acute in what Yudoff’s e-mail described as “cities with a large immigrant population and strong labor groups,” which “traditionally stage rallies on May 1, and Occupy groups are likely to bolster support for scheduled demonstrations.”  Under the heading “Related Advice—tips for reducing your vulnerability,” readers were told Continue Reading

Protesters chuck Pepsi cans at Portland police during May Day march

Protesters in Portland pelted police with cans of Pepsi during a rowdy May Day demonstration Monday, paying tribute to the soda giant’s doomed commercial starring Kendall Jenner. Police blamed the brunt of the violence, including flying drinks, on anarchists. One of the soda cans struck a Portland Fire & Rescue paramedic during the raucous labor march, according to authorities. “Rocks, lead balls and full cans of @pepsi being launched at police,” Portland police tweeted, tweeting at the beverage business behind a nixed ad that trivialized police brutality in early April. The company aired a commercial showing Jenner, a reality TV star, handing a police officer an ice-cold Pepsi during a racially-charged protest, setting off criticism of the ad's apparent message that police brutality could be fixed with soda pop. Pepsi was ultimately accused of appropriating imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement for commercial gain. The May Day rally brought families with children, as well as black-clad protesters wheeling giant spiders through downtown Portland and chanting, “Let’s get rowdy.” As the rally heated up in Portland, law enforcement rescinded a march permit and warned those families to leave. Throngs of riot-geared cops flooded the street, ordering protesters to leave or risk arrest. Police then accused violent protesters of setting off fireworks, smoke bombs, Molotov cocktails and multiple garbage fires. Storefront windows, newspaper stands and at least one cop car was destroyed, police said. Police said 25 protesters, whose ages range from 14 to 44, were cuffed during the rally and face charges of disorderly conduct, riot, arson, vandalism, theft and assault. The annual May Day marches honor the labor movement, but those demonstrations, often in Portland and Seattle, have a penchant for inspiring vandalism and tense clashes with police. Continue Reading

Violence leads arrests in May Day marches in US Northwest

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — May Day protests turned violent in the Pacific Northwest as demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, threw smoke bombs and Molotov cocktails at police while elsewhere thousands of people peacefully marched against President Donald Trump's immigration and labor policies. From New England to the Midwest to the West Coast people chanted and picketed against Trump along with the traditional May Day labor rallies. Protesters flooded streets in Chicago. At the White House gates, they demanded "Donald Trump has got to go!" In Portland, Oregon, police shut down a protest they said had become a riot and arrested more than two dozen people. Police in Olympia, Washington, said nine people were taken into custody after several officers were injured by thrown rocks and windows were broken at businesses in Washington's capital city. In Seattle, five people were arrested during downtown protests and in Oakland, California, at least four were arrested after creating a human chain to block a county building where demonstrators demanded that county law enforcement refuse to collaborate with federal immigration agents. "It is sad to see that now being an immigrant is equivalent to almost being a criminal," said Mary Quezada, a 58-year-old North Carolina woman who joined those marching on Washington. She offered a pointed message to Trump: "Stop bullying immigrants." The demonstrations on May Day, celebrated as International Workers' Day, follow similar actions worldwide in which protesters from the Philippines to Paris demanded better working conditions. But the widespread protests in the United States were aimed directly at the new Republican president, who has followed aggressive anti-immigrant rhetoric on the campaign trail with aggressive action in the White House. Trump, in his first 100 days, has intensified immigration enforcement, including executive orders for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and a ban on travelers from six Continue Reading

Don’t ‘red’ on their parade: Communist Party sues to use sound truck in Brooklyn May Day march

The workers of the world may be uniting — just not on May Day. The Communist Party organizers of Brooklyn’s annual May Day Parade filed a lawsuit against the city and the NYPD Monday to obtain a permit for a sound truck for the length of the march. Mary Lonergan and Jessica Foard, both members of the Revolutionary Communist Progessive Labor Party, contend the city’s administrative code prohibiting the use of an amplified sound device on a moving vehicle is unconstitutional and has not been uniformly enforced for other major parades. The parade, which celebrates a holiday for international workers, is scheduled for April 26, and the organizers’ application to the 70th Precinct for the sound truck is still pending. But their applications over the past two years were rejected by the precinct’s community affairs detective who threatened to shut down the parade if a sound truck was used, according to the suit. The organizers say they need the loudspeaker to broadcast songs and chants and to “maintain a cohesive message” to the hundreds of paradegoers along the route. In years past, the organizers have found themselves struggling to maintain a uniform chant or song from the front of the march to those at the end. “In years past, the organizers have found themselves struggling to maintain a uniform chant or song from the front of the march to those at the end,” the civil complaint states. The city’s administrative code bars amplified sound from a moving vehicle, but carves out an exception for trucks and carts that sell food or other items when the vehicle is stopped — like an ice cream truck, for example. But the suit accuses the city of applying a double standard to who gets a sound truck permit, citing the Halloween and Gay Pride parades, the Unity Walk in Brooklyn and the San Gennaro Feast. The May Day Parade is scheduled to kick off at the corner of Continue Reading

Occupy Wall Street members lead May Day protests around U.S.

Hundreds of activists across the U.S. joined the worldwide May Day protests on Tuesday, with Occupy Wall Street members in several cities leading demonstrations against major financial institutions. In New York, police in riot gear lined the front of a Bank of America, facing several dozen Occupy activists marching behind barricades. “Bank of America. Bad for America!” they chanted. About 50 demonstrators in Chicago rallied outside another of the bank’s branches. They allowed patrons to go inside, but the doorway was eventually blocked by police who placed their bicycles end to end. Across the world, protests drew tens of thousands of demonstrators into the streets from the Philippines to Spain. They demanded everything from wage increases to an end to austerity measures. Tuesday’s U.S. protests were the most visible organizing effort by anti-Wall Street groups since Occupy encampments were dismantled last fall. May Day protests have in recent years focused on immigrant rights. From New York to San Francisco, organizers of the various demonstrations, strikes and acts of civil disobedience said they were not too concerned about muddling their messages. They noted that the movements have similar goals: jobs, fair wages and equality. Organizers of Chicago’s rally said they welcomed participation from the Occupy groups. “I definitely see it as an enrichment of it,” Orlando Sepulveda said. “It’s great.” In Los Angeles, at least a half a dozen rallies were planned. A rally was also planned in Minneapolis. In Atlanta, about 100 people rallied outside the Georgia Capitol, where a law targeting illegal immigration was passed last year. They called for an end to local-federal partnerships to enforce immigration law. The May Day protest was significantly smaller than last year’s, which drew about 1,000 people. Organizers said turnout last year was greater, in part, because the rally Continue Reading

Occupy Wall Street May Day protests snarl traffic as marchers fan out

The Occupy Wall Street protest resurfaced on the streets of New York City Tuesday with minor clashes between cops and demonstrators pounding drums and cursing corporate greed. The May Day demonstration has been mostly peaceful. Cops said 30 protesters had been arrested as of 5 p.m. resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, including blocking street traffic. Several demonstrates were busted carrying hammers, but police reported few instances of vandalism. Someone threw paint on a police cruiser on the Bowery, officials said. One demonstrator, Elliot Epstein, a 19-year-old Californian, was arrested  on assault charges after being accused of biting NYPD Assistant Chief Thomas Galati of the Intelligence Division on the finger. Bryant Park was the makeshift epicenter for the May Day demonstrations starting early in the morning OWS protesters joined thousands of labor union members for an afternoon rally at Union Square, where hundreds of cops were on hand to quell any unruly behavior. Cops were also investigating three more letters containing suspicious powder, a day after six banks and a city-owned office building received similar packages with notes that read: “This is (to) remind that you are not in control ... Happy May Day.” Two of the envelopes were addressed to News Corp.-owned media outlets — including one to The Wall Street Journal — and one was sent to Citigroup, officials said. An abandoned suitcase was also found on Murray St., between Broadway and Church St., police said. There were scattered arrests and minor scuffles throughout the day, but the majority of people who took to the streets were more boisterous than confrontational. “I think today shows we are back and that the movement is energized,” said photographer Brendan Stewart, 36. “I don't think that Occupy Wall Street has died down at all.” The early marches headed north of Bryant Park, past Bank of America Continue Reading

Pink slips are United Nation’s May Day gift to staffers

Sunday is International Workers' Day - also known as May Day - and people around the world are rallying to protest attacks on workers' and immigrants' rights. In New York, a May Day demonstration will be held at 1 p.m. at Foley Square, where hundreds of laborers are expected to demand respect for themselves and their work. Meanwhile, the United Nations, whose mission is to defend human rights in the world, gave a group of workers an unwelcome May Day gift by allowing them to be thrown out on the street. "It is hurtful," said Mark Serge, 60, who has been an elevator operator at the UN for 28 years. "I have done my job with honesty and to the best of my ability all these years - and this happens. It hurts." The list of people Serge, of Astoria, Queens, has taken up and down the UN building is a true Who is Who of the international stage. "[Presidents] Obama, Bush and Clinton; Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Queen Elizabeth, Mother Teresa, two Popes,"Serge proudly names. "Thousands of ambassadors, politicians and foreign dignitaries have ridden in my elevator. The UN security people, the Secret Service, they know me and trust me." Yet, on Friday Serge and five of his coworkers, all members of Local 32BJ, were unceremoniously dumped from "the pomp and circumstance of the UN," said Eugenio Villasante, a union representative. "My boss called me this morning [Thursday] and told me that tomorrow would be my last day," Serge said. "Just like that." He and the other five elevator operators/porters have gained the respect, trust and friendship of its dignitaries, employees and visitors during the more than 20 years all have worked at the UN. Apparently respect, trust and friendship are not enough for the UN. The world body decided to save a few dollars by replacing ABM, its longtime contractor -and Serge's employer - with the nonunion A-1 Office Services Management. By showing the union contractor the door, the UN is heartlessly Continue Reading

Million marchers expected at May Day rallies across nation to protest Arizona immigration laws

A national outpouring of opposition to Arizona's new immigration law was expected to draw more than a million people at May Day rallies from coast to coast. The Saturday demonstrations include a pair in Manhattan at Foley Square and Union Square. Attendance is expected to surge at the annual rallies because of the controversial immigration law in Arizona. Protests were planned in more than 70 cities, with Los Angeles expected to host 100,000 demonstrators in the biggest rally. In Chicago, a number of college students plan to "come out" as illegals. And Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) will join in a civil disobedience protest outside the White House. "What happened in Arizona proves that racism and anti-immigrant hysteria across the country still exists," said Lee Siu Hin of the National Immigrant Solidarity Network. The law, which goes into effect this August, requires law enforcement to question people about their immigration status if there's suspicion they might be here illegally. Immigrants rights activists believe the new law is an invitation to racial profiling, since the vast majority of the 500,000 illegals in Arizona are Hispanic. Organizers hope a huge turnout would send a message to other states possibly considering similar legislation. The Arizona statute "gives working people, immigrants, youth, women, trade unionists and their sympathizers more reason to march," said Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading