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May Day. What Does It Mean, Why Does It Matter?

History: This is a feature published on portland indymedia last year, about May Day 2001, and the planning process that took place.
The historical context

May 1st is International Workers' Day, and is celebrated in every country but the United States and Canada. The holiday actually began in the US.

Mayday commemorates the 1887 murder by the courts in Chicago of eight anarchists who were active in the struggle for the eight hour day. A short history of events leading up to the Haymarket riot and the execution of the Haymarket martyrs on fabricated charges can be read here.

Authorities in the United States, afraid that international solidarity might actual be realized, moved the recognition of labor from May 1 to the meaningless Labor Day in September. Many working class and union activists refuse to submit to this travesty, and will again this year take to the streets on May 1st. Events are scheduled around the country, and the world.

No permission asked, and none needed: May Day 2001 in Portland

As reported in the mainstream news, the Mayday Coalition has refused to cooperate with the authorities by applying for a permit, arguing that the rights of Free Speech and Free Assembly are all the permit required. A spokesman for the Mayday coalition has explained the stance of the organization in a letter to the Oregonian.

Organizers have planned for an orderly demonstration of solidarity for workers around the globe. The demonstration will be a non-violent assertion of the rights of workers. An account of last year's altercation by Dave Mazza gives the impression of a police riot, by no means justified by the events. Organizers are hoping that the police can act more professionally this year.

There is good news on Mayday 2001 from City Hall. According to a story in the Oregonian of 23 April, the City and police have demonstrated a committment to respect for the rights of Mayday participants.

The hotly debated issue of a permit for Mayday was rendered moot, as the City Council has acquired a permit for the event. Organizers expect a peaceful event "We are asking everyone -- police and the public -- to conduct themselves peacefully", said Andy Davis, speaking for the Mayday Coalition.

Discussion between members of the Coalition and City Officials became somewhat heated on the subject of masks. Coalition members pointedly told the authorities that "it is not illegal for protestors to wear masks."

The discussions last night opened a channel of communications that will remain open through Mayday. This will tend to facilitate rumor control and to reduce misunderstandings and overreaction.

The Mayday march will start at approximately 4:00 p.m. at the North Park Blocks in Portland. A great deal of planning has gone into making the Mayday events peaceful. The assertion of workers rights, FTAA notwithstanding, is not a crime. Thousands will be watching the Portland Police on Mayday.

Worker 26.Apr.2002 11:33


Above it states, "Organizers have planned for an orderly demonstration of solidarity for workers around the globe." Key word being "for workers around the globe", instead of With Workers Around the Globe. I do hope the Latino and the houseless community has been contacted by organizers to be apart of this May Day! It's not the job of these communities to be organizing these kind of events because they already have there hands full organizing against the struggles that occur daily in there respected populations. It will be very sad to me to show up to MAY DAY with only the usual whitties protesting Taco Bell, while issue's such as Title 14, the sit-n-lie ordinance, Dignity getting a permanant site, and the Latino populations being pushed out of Northeast could be ignored by people who'd rather make having a permit or not having a permit an issue, while the true organizing doesn't get done. The 2000 May Day had a variety of issue's and stops with many different people represented. I've heard nothing except we are to meet at the park blocks and protest the INS! Who is apart of the MAY DAY coalition? Why should we come out to May Day? Will anything get accomplished? Or will we just be marching throught the streets aimlessly, shouting chants about workers rights? I'm not trying to be critical here, I just think the community needs to know more about what's going on?