Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Across North America, immigrant workers, workers of colour, and their supporters came out in record numbers for this year’s May Day.
May Day started in 1886 as a commemoration for workers killed by Chicago police during a demonstration demanding an 8 hr work day and the later execution of several worker organizers on fraudulent charges. International workers day is celebrated as a holiday everywhere in the World and is a day when workers go to the streets to demand peace, equality and justice.
In Los Angeles, over 100 000 workers - largely comprised of Latinos - assembled in MacArthur Park during marches calling for the recognition of the rights of undocumented workers. The immigrant workers movement has been organizing to fight the Bush administration’s offensive against Mexican and Latino undocumented workers in the Southern US. Their work has included a massive show of working peoples power in 2006 with a day-long strike and demonstration that had the participation of millions across the United States.
This year’s L.A. demonstrations were met with force from the notoriously racist and brutal Los Angeles Police Department (L.A.P.D). Hundreds of riot police attempted to break up the peaceful demonstrations with batons, shields and rubber coated bullets.
According to eyewitness accounts, hundreds of people “were shot, beaten by night sticks and run out of the park.” Calls from Latino and progressive organizations to fire Police Chief Bratton have been largely ignored by the Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa.
Sizeable demonstrations were held in Canadian cities as well, including a rally in Montreal that attracted 2000 workers. Hundreds of radical demonstrators staged a breakaway from the more conservative trade union led rally and marched to a nearby military base where they denounced the war in Afghanistan.
In Toronto, May Day organizing took place on the weekend beginning with a demonstration of workers, students and activists calling for the recognition of undocumented workers in Canada. Over 2500 people filled Christie Pitts Park calling for the end to the deportation of undocumented workers and their families that began under the Liberal governments and has continued under Harper’s Conservatives.
Also on the weekend, progressive Latino group Pa’delante organized a workshop at San Lorenzo Church on organizing in the Latino community around workers rights and livable wages. After addressing the mass of 150 workers and family members, organizers spoke with members of the community urging an organized response within the Latino community aimed at getting people to mobilize for a livable wage.
The increasing level of activity on and around May Day from workers in North America shows the rising level of consciousness and organization among working people. The government knows this, and they think that they can ‘discourage’ this by using measures like police brutality against the people. The people must show the police, the government and the bosses that they will not be deterred and that the struggle will continue.