bangalore it workers march

Black Lives Matter, immigrants’ rights, labor, and more team up for May Day

Yesterday was May Day, and it was rad!

In what some say was the biggest May Day demonstration in the Unites States in forty years, workers and other social justice organizations across the U.S. teamed up to make a big statement for economic justice and working class struggle — and for the inherent relatedness of struggles for gender, economic, racial, and social justice.

This is a big deal considering that historically, the U.S. hasn’t been particularly hoppin’ in comparison with the global celebration of May Day. So out of all the horror to come from the Trump administration, maybe we can look forward to one thing: Our people are building some kick-ass movements geared to take on the whole system, way beyond Mr. Tang-for-Hair.

Sit back and relax — or rather, get active and go! — and let’s check out some of the day’s history and highlights.

In 2017…

Black Lives Matter, immigrants’ rights, labor, and other groups teamed up for massive demonstrations across the U.S. under the banner of the Majority Coalition and more. The coalition includes organizations promoting the rights of LGBT people, refugees, minimum wage and poor workers, and people of color.

Another group of activists in New York City organized a “#FreedomCities” protest to expand the idea of sanctuary cities to include comprehensive safety and justice for all. Here’s Mic’s live coverage of that event.

Meanwhile, people detained at ICE’s privately-run Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington continue into the fourth week of a hunger strike to protest conditions in the facility. NWDC Resistance, a solidarity group, organized a May Day protest in solidarity with the strikers.

Rallies across the world highlighted the dignity and power of workers as well as immigrant and LGBT communities.

In Istanbul, police prevented protestors from marching in Taksim Squre with teargas and riot gear, while in Paris some groups with molotov cocktails injured police. 

In Bangladesh, garment workers proudly marched demanding wage increases and improved working conditions. Unions and left-wing organizations marched in Poland, Paris, Spain, the Phillipines, Cuba, Greece, and more.

In India, marches included rallies for ongoing auto workers’ struggles and a rally of IT workers in Bangalore (pictured in header image). 

Through the Years…

So what’s the history of May Day?

May Day, or International Workers Day, transformed the older spring May first festival into an international holiday to commemorate and take forward the struggle of workers.

It also commemorates the Haymarket affair, which went down in 1886.

If it’s been a while since you’ve had American history class, here’s what happened: After a protracted workers’ struggle for an eight hour workday and against the truly miserable working conditions of Industrial Revolution America, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions called for a massive strike of up to half a million people starting May first—including 40,000 people in Chicago alone.

On May 3rd, 1886, Chicago police killed at least two protesting workers during a fight between strikers and strikebreakers. On May 4th, a bomb was thrown at a group of police officers in Haymarket Square, killing seven of them and at least four civilians.

The Haymarket affair galvanized the broader workers’ movement to continue the fight for the eight hour work day — which didn’t come until 1916. And May Day itself was adapted by the Communist International, and thus globalized across the leftist world.

There have been several other May Days which have marked both suppression and resistance. May Day in 1970 saw massive protests against Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia. A few days later, on May Fourth, National Guardsmen at Kent State killed four protesting students and wounded nine more—an act of sickening police violence followed by the police murders of two students at Jackson State College in Mississippi.

On May Day 1971, tens of thousands of protestors shut DC down.

Considering this history, it’s a big deal that American workers, people of color, and feminists are coming together on May Day this year not only to mark our resistance to Trump, but to take forward a struggle which has formed an alternate American and world history for the past 150 years.

So suck it, Trump. You may be a the most icky histories of America condensed into one big orange-toupéd slime monster of misogynist white supremacist capitalism. But the people are rising up. And we can only hope that this energy and brilliance will blow past not only Trump but the whole god-awful system that got him here.

Long live the revolution, baby!

Reina Gattuso is passionate about empowering conversations around queerness, sexual ethics, and social movements with equal parts rhapsody and sass. Her writing has appeared at Time, Bitch, attn:, and The Washington Post. She is currently pursuing her masters.

Reina Gattuso writes about her sex life for the good of human kind.

Read more about Reina

Join the Conversation