May Day marked by protests

May 1 is celebrated around the world as International Workers Day. Following are May Day reports from the streets by activists with Party for Socialism and Liberation and the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).

New York City

On May Day in New York City, over 30,000 people came out for a march to Wall Street, uniting Occupy activists with labor unionists, students and the immigrant rights struggle. They marched behind the slogan, “Legalize, Unionize, Organize!”

May Day was full of activity, including pickets outside banks and corporate offices, rallies in front of employers known for abusing immigrant workers, and wildcat marches. By 4 p.m., activists across the city began to converge in huge numbers on Union Square and by 5:30 p.m. the park was completely packed.

A diverse array of struggles were represented throughout the crowd, from calls for universal health care, immigrant rights, women’s rights, LGBT equality and the defense of labor unions, as well as opposition to the banks, police brutality and the war in Afghanistan. This broad display was a sign of strength, not division. International Workers Day is not about a particular issue, but a day for poor and working people from all walks of life to demand a world free of exploitation, war and bigotry.

Jorge Roldán, a member and organizer with the construction workers’ Laborers International Union of North America, expressed the importance of unity with the immigrant community. “Immigration is part of the history of this country and will always be. Families come to this country in search for a better life. Who takes care of your children? Who cleans your homes? Roldan said. “We are the workers that are not recognized. We need to demand legalization for all of the undocumented that are already living here today.” LIUNA has organized large contingents at immigrant rights rallies for several years, and has denounced the racist anti-immigration laws in Arizona.

Linda Oalican, a Filipino domestic worker with Damayan Migrant Workers Association explained her participation: “Over a hundred years ago, U.S. workers fought and won the eight-hour workday to have time to re-energize their body and mind, and take care of their families. Today capitalism has stolen this workers’ victory by forcing workers to work 2 or jobs for at least 12 hours workday just to survive. We have to keep on organizing and reclaim a real 8 hour workday with a living wage.”

High school teacher Jessica Jean-Marie came to the march along with a group of her students and co-workers. Jean-Maries explained how her own cousin is facing deportation back to Haiti, and drew a link between the rising number of deportations and police brutality in oppressed communities. For her, May Day was a perfect venue to bring this to light.  “Whenever there is an opportunity to show a form of unity we need to take it,” she explained.

A militant group from Transit Workers Union Local 100 were also present, dressed in their signature blue colors. Nicole Kelly, an intern with Local 100, explained how the plight of transit workers is connected to Wall Street: “Twenty percent of the MTA’s budget goes directly to Wall St bankers. That money should be going into our communities and to the straphangers. Today’s march will end in front of the MTA headquarters and we will be demanding no service cuts and no fare hikes.”

Many protesters spoke to Liberation about the epidemic of racial profiling and police brutality, remembering in particular the recent victims Trayvon Martin and Ramarley Graham. Nysheva Starr proudly raised a poster of the Martin, and explained “Trayvon Martin died because he was Black. I’m a woman of color, and I have brothers.”

After short speeches and musical performances in Union Square, thousands poured into the streets for the nearly three-mile march.  The Party for Socialism and Liberation, dressed all in red, marched with the ANSWER Coalition, the high school group Youth Against War and Racism, the Filipino youth organization Ugnayan, Damayan Migrant Workers Association, the transnational feminist organization AF3IRM, and Mamis Unite. This powerful and multinational group continuously attracted others over the two-hour march with its high-energy chanting.

PSL vice presidential candidate Yari Osorio participated in the march, as well as pickets and activities throughout the day. The campaign issued a statement that read, “We will be in the streets, helping to deepen this new movement in the struggle against foreclosures, evictions, unemployment, cutbacks and police brutality. We offer our campaign as a revolutionary alternative in the elections for those who are fed up with the big-business parties, and want a whole new system. Poor and working people have the power to bring Wall Street to its knees. Let’s stay in the streets this year. Occupy, organize, rise up!”

Minerva Arias of AF3IRM told Liberation, “We are marching with our allies, mothers, children and pregnant women of Mamis Unite specifically to remind the world what the struggle is about: That this is our demand to live and to live decently, justly and with dignity.”

As the march neared Chambers St., a group of doctors decked in their scrubs and white lab coats, held up signs calling for a health care for the 99%.  “I’m out here today for my patients,” said Dr. Asiya Tschannerl, a Family Medicine practitioner in Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. The Bronx is one of the poorest districts in the nation, and has extremely high rates of both asthma and diabetes. “Job insecurity and food insecurity are the number one social determinants that are the cause these diseases,” said Tschannerl. “The only solution for this is a single payer health care system.”

By the end of the day’s events, over 30 protesters had been arrested, but the morale and enthusiasm of all the participants was very high. The winter lull of the movement is officially over. Capturing the spirit of the day, a popular chant resounded: “We are unstoppable—another world is possible!”

Los Angeles

Well over 10,000 immigrants and their allies gathered on May Day at Olympic and Broadway in downtown. The demonstrators were called into action by the May Day Coalition, which included ANSWER, the Coalition for Humane Immigration Reform, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, SEIU-United Long Term Care Workers and the LA County Federation of Labor.

Demonstrators marched to City Hall for a closing rally chaired by Peta Lindsay of the ANSWER Coalition. Speakers included Ian Thompson and Marcial Guerra of ANSWER, Juan José Gutiérrez of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition and Angelica Salas of CHIRLA.

San Francisco Bay Area

The attendance of May Day activities in the Bay Area was strong. The actions demonstrated the enduring alliance between organized labor and the Occupy movement.

On April 30, Unite HERE Local 2 organized a 12-hour “siege” of the Hyatt Regency, with a picket in front of the hotel’s entrance starting at 7:00 a.m. Unite HERE is in an ongoing struggle for a decent contract for the hotel workers.

That afternoon, a group of about 100 people, mainly SEIU members, gathered at San Francisco City Hall and occupied the building to demand fair contracts for public and non-profit workers and an end to corporate influence on City Hall. Some city supervisors spoke in support of the city workers.

Early in the morning of May 1, the Inland Boatmen’s Union stopped work and picketed the San Francisco Ferry building, shutting down the ferry connecting San Francisco to Marin County for eight hours. The IBU was protesting increased health care costs. They were joined on the picket line by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, which had also stopped work for the day.

At 9:30 a.m., a crowd of a few hundred gathered in the largely Latino Mission district to march for immigrant rights. Participating organization included Young Workers United, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Domestic Workers Alliance, Pride at Work/HAVOQ and other immigrant rights organizations. The march concluded with a puppet show representing the exploitation of the 99 percent at the hands of the 1 percent.

Activists then traveled to downtown San Francisco, where the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 5 are organizing retail workers at Bloomingdale’s inside the cavernous Westfield Mall.

Supporters surreptitiously gathered on the upper floors of the giant mall and suddenly unfurled two banners that read “99%: We Are the Magic of Macy’s” and “May Day 2012! Justice for Janitors!” Chants of “We Are the 99 percent!” echoed throughout the mall. Protesters then exited to join a large picket line led by the janitors’ union, SEIU local 87. When workers and protesters decided to storm the mall, mall security tried locking the doors to the public and shoving protesters to the ground. Demonstrators thrust their bodies into the doorframes to keep them open.

After exiting the mall, the picket line took the streets and a hundreds of people marched down Market street. The crowd occupied the busy intersection of Market and Montgomery, engaging street theater and a speak out of labor, immigrants and low wage workers. Organizers estimate that about 2000 to 3000 people participated in the actions.

In Oakland, the California Nurses Association Local 19 and SEIU United Service Workers West Local 87 began their strikes with a walkout. They were joined by a massive march of more than 4,000 protesters, who gathered in the working-class Fruitvale district and marched six miles through different neighborhoods of the city before gathering in Oscar Grant Park, site of the old Occupy Oakland encampment.

The Oakland Police were out in great numbers during the march but were relatively non-confrontational for most of the day, perhaps because of a recent federal investigation that criticized the OPD’s handling of the Occupy protests. Late in the evening, however, as Occupiers were celebrating the successful march in Oscar Grant Park, the OPD attacked them with tear-gas and flash-bang grenades.

All along the march were seen prominent red flags and references to communist revolution. This was a truly class-conscious mass action demanding revolutionary change.

Rounding out these Bay Area actions was a march and rally of more than 1,000 in San José.


On a rainy day in Chicago, over 1,000 people gathered in Union Park to join in a march to Federal Plaza on International Workers Day. Students, unions, immigrant rights groups, Occupy Chicago and social justice organizations brought their voices, signs and banners to stand up and demand Equality, jobs and justice for all workers!

ANSWER Chicago volunteers carried a banner that read “Unite the 99%: Fight Racism!” Militant youth groups chanted through the streets of downtown Chicago: “When immigrant rights are under attack what do we do? Stand up Fight Back!” and “Money for jobs and education not for racist deportations!”

Throughout the day, volunteers got the word out about the Protest NATO Demonstration on May 20 connecting the war on workers here in the belly of the beast to the criminal imperialist war in Afghanistan.

As ANSWER organizer Ana Santoyo put it: “We are marching today demanding equality and justice for all workers here in the U.S. But we must also voice our opposition to imperialist war and demand an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan. We have more in common with our sisters and brothers in the Middle East than we will ever have with the 1 percent, the corporations and the oil giants here in the U.S.!”


Immigrant workers and union members were among those who turned out for a successful march in Albuquerque, N.M., on May 1.

Families of immigrants and youth lead the chanting with “Obama escucha estamos en la lucha,” (Obama, listen, we are in the struggle) as many showed disenchantment towards the Obama administration’s record, which has already surpassed 1 million deportations.

The demonstration grew to about 1,000 marchers and supporters, who also chanted at the small Albuquerque Police Department presence: “No justice no peace, no racist police.” The high number of civilians murdered by the APD includes, in large part, working-class Latinos.

At the main rally, PSL members talked to the community about the Peta Lindsay and Yari Osorio presidential campaign, as being the only true alternative to the bourgeois electoral system, and the candidates who advocate full rights for the immigrant community. PSL members also distributed many May Day editions of Liberation newspaper.

A feeder march with students and organizers set off from the University of New Mexico to downtown, meeting with the main demonstration at its start. Slogans demanding Wall Street bankers be held accountable for precipitating the economic crisis, and calling for health care for all were delivered by organizers.

“Colonialism and imperialism must end, all the money going into Afghanistan and Iraq must end,” Petuuche Gilbert, with the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment, said. “We don’t want to waste water for uranium mining; 20 million gallons are wasted in a day,” Gilbert said.

Leona Morgan, with Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining, also spoke about a number of Native American community grievances against the U.S. government concerning Indigenous rights and the environment.


Nearly 200 workers and youth across many sectors united in the spirit of May Day for several marches and rallies to demand full employment, full rights for immigrants, fair development and against privatization, homelessness and institutionalized racism.

Three feeder marches with different themes began with smaller rallies around 4 pm and converged on McKeldin Square, by the Inner Harbor, at 5:30pm. From the east marched several labor unions, including the American Postal Workers Union Local 181, UNITE HERE Local 7, and many others. From the north came Critical Mass and a march focusing on uneven development. On the west side, members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the ANSWER Coalition joined an anti-racist march to connect the issues facing Black and Latino working-class families, such as the racist criminalization of youth, state repression and gentrification.

Protesters carried signs saying, “We are all Trayvon Martin,” “Full rights for all Immigrants,” and “Defend the DREAM,” which highlighted the importance of standing with undocumented immigrant youth in their struggle to preserve their right to higher education, granted by the Maryland DREAM Act.

Marchers from the west side passed by Lexington Market with militancy and lively chants, and made their way down Pratt street to converge on McKeldin Square to join the other protesters for a rally.

The actions were sponsored by Occupy Baltimore, Young Trade Unionists, Casa de Maryland, ANSWER Coalition, United Workers, Occupy Our Homes, LiUNA!, UNITE HERE Local 7, PSL and many others.


In Boston, 200 people gathered at Boston’s City Hall Plaza for a rally sponsored by the Boston May Day Committee. Despite heavy rain and cold weather, the rally was a spirited event that included speakers and musical performances.

The rally was co-chaired by PSL member and ANSWER organizer Jennifer Zaldana, along with Tim Larkin from Socialist Alternative. At the rally, City Councilor Charles Yancey read excerpts from a City Council resolution he sponsored, declaring May 1, 2012, International Workers Day in Boston.

Other speakers included Bishop Texeira, a faith leader and immigrant rights organizer in Brockton, Geoff Carens with the Common Struggle and the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (AFSCME Local 3650), Elizabeth Dake with Occupy Boston, Romina Akemi, a Chilean student activist, and Isabel Espinal, with the Green-Rainbow Party. Jake and the Infernal Machine played a song for the crowd and Sergio Reyes played the Internationale.

Following the noon rally at City Hall, demonstrators headed to East Boston for another rally and march that stopped in Chelsea and ended in Everett. Hundreds gathered at that action, organized by the May 1st Coalition (East Boston, Chelsea, Everett) and included organizations Mass Uniting, City Life/Vida Urbana and Centro Presente and local unions such as SEIU, UFCW and the Teamsters.


People marched through the streets of New Haven to demand jobs and justice in honor of International Worker’s Day. Demonstrators chanted, “El Pueblo unido jamás será vencidos!” and “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

The march followed the annual May Day festival on the New Haven Green, which celebrated local and national victories in the people’s movement and encouraged people to continue to fight and struggle for workers’ and immigrant rights. Throughout the day, people from around the state came to speak and demand justice for all people.

There were many performances, spoken word and poetry throughout the day including HipHopCoalition, Elaine Peters, Joseph Firecrow and Ngoma. The speakers at the rally included Deb Malatesta of the PSL, who spoke about the many victories the New Haven community has won for immigrant and workers’ rights and the need to continue to fight back against the bosses and racist police.

In Hartford, over 100 people marched through the streets to stand in solidarity with workers around the world. The march ended at the Old State House with local speakers, performances, and a Maypole for Justice as well as calls for solidarity with oppressed peoples around the world.


Workers took to the streets of Philadelphia on May Day to protest a variety of injustices from foreclosures to mass incarceration to plans to gut the public education system. In West Philadelphia, a spirited march visited several sites of repression currently being constructed in the community, including an Immigration and Customs Enforcement building, a juvenile detention center and a new police headquarters. Meanwhile, protesters in the downtown area marched to several banks, meeting police repression and several arrests.

Later in the day. a demonstration was held at Elmwood Park, the country’s only park that is dedicated to the labor movement, to draw attention to the lack of decent-paying jobs. Finally, protesters rallied and intervened in a meeting of the so-called School Reform Commission, an unelected body that runs the Philadelphia school district. The SRC recently announced the effective end of public education in the city, with plans to close 64 schools and group the rest into privately managed networks. This May Day, poor and working people showed that abuses by the capitalists will not go unanswered.


On May 1, about 200 people assembled for a rally and march in solidarity with the workers of the world.

The event was organizied by a coallition of organizations, including the Party for Socialism and Liberation and Occupy Pittsburgh. Participants gathered at Freedom Corner, in a predominantly Black community. Among several opening speakers was PSL organizer Taylor Goel. In his speech, Goel noted that the imperialist wars waged against other peoples of the world, as well as the domestic war against the working class, are but two sides of the same coin: where the imperialist wars are waged by military force, the war against the workers is waged by increased austerity. Goel also emphasized that the fight within the labor movement and that against racism must unite in order to challege the system of capitalism underlying these struggles.

After the rally participants marched through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh, stopping at Consol Energgy Center, where UPMC – considered a non-profit healthcare system – holds offices. People chanted for
UPMC to drop its status as a non-profit organization. Later, “Healthcare is a human right!” roared through the crowd. Other speakers rallied around immigrant rights. Later, organizersagainst the impending cuts to Pittsburgh public transit rallied the crowd as well.

The march ended at Governor Corbert’s office.


Hundreds of people gathered May 1 at South Side Park anxiously waiting for the start of this year’s May Day action. Although the weather conditions might not have been the best for pickets and banners, people were more than ready to hit the streets. Everyone from labor unions to political parties, including the Party for Socialism and Liberation, were present along with local news reporters and unaffiliated passersby curious about the demonstration.

After a local union representative’s brief pep talk the people were in the streets, fighting the wind from blowing their signs away and filling the air with chants of workers’ empowerment. As the march progressed, the crowd got bigger by the block with random people jumping in to join at every corner. By the time the march had reached Capitol grounds the crowd had at least doubled in size.

Crowded into the stage area on the north side of the Capitol’s steps, speakers representing their respective organizations rose up one by one and delivered messages of workers’ solidarity and empowerment.

Carrying signs saying, “Legalization for all,” “No human being is illegal,” and “We are workers not criminals,” protesters drew attention to the importance of standing with undocumented workers and students in their struggle for their right to higher education and a decent job.


Workers in Syracuse, N.Y., celebrated International Workers’ Day with an entire day of activities against economic inequality and for workers’ and immigrant rights. The event was organized by Occupy Syracuse, the Workers’ Center of Central New York, ANSWER Coalition, Syracuse Peace Council and the PSL.

People began assembling in the morning at Perseverance Park, the former site of Occupy Syracuse in the middle of downtown. Just before noon, a march of about 40 people formed pickets in front of various banks.

The crowd swelled in the afternoon. There was an open forum, where people talked about the future of the Occupy movement, followed by a rally. Ben Kuebrich, one of the event’s organizers, introduced various speakers. Wayne, an immigrant and activist with the Syracuse Peace Council, spoke about the need to connect workers’ rights to immigrant rights.

Risa Cantu C’DeBaca, of the ANSWER Coalition, got the crowd going with a chant of “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” She spoke about the special oppression of people of color, who are subjected to lower wages and violent state repression.

By this time, there were over 100 workers assembled, and a march began through the streets of Syracuse. The march made several stops, connecting the dots between the federal and local governments, the banks and the criminal “justice” system. The first stop was the Federal Building, where Ursula Rozum spoke about the movement to end corporate personhood.

Next, the march made its way to Bank of America’s downtown headquarters. PSL member Erin Kinsey spoke to the supportive crowd about the PSL’s program to “Seize the banks!” Kinsey said: “Instead of the massive profits of the banks staying in the hands of the ruling class, the money should go where it really belongs: to the people! That’s why we say ‘Seize the banks!’”

After chants of “JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, get your crisis off our backs!” the march took to the streets without a permit. Next, marchers congregated in front of City Hall, chanting “Evict Mayor Miner!” Rebecca Fuentes, the director of the Workers’ Center of Central New York, spoke out against the racist raids and deportations that tear area working families apart. She also informed the marchers about a state-wide movement to raise the minimum-wage to a living-wage.

The march continued on the streets, past the Syracuse Police Department and to the Onondaga County “Justice” Center. Ruth Beltran, a Latina activist with the League of United Latin American Citizens, talked about the recent report documenting that the death of Raul Pinet Jr. in the jail was indeed a homicide at the hands of jail deputies. The crowd chanted, “The 99 out, the 1 percent in!” and “Jail Sheriff Walsh!” and the inmates in the jail could be heard cheering in support.

The final stop was in Columbus Circle in front of a racist statue of Christopher Columbus with several Native Americans kneeling before him. Gary Bonaparte, a local activist and Native American, talked about how he learned school that “Christopher Columbus discovered my land where my people had lived for centuries.” He continued: “The thing about thoughts, though, is that they can change.” The march then returned to Perseverance Park, where Food Not Bombs had prepared a home-cooked meal. The night ended with music and entertainment from the DREAM Freedom Revival.

Washington, D.C.

PSL members of the DC branch participated in a spirited march and rally organized by the Occupy movement. Hundreds gathered at Malcolm X Park for a rally where speakers spoke of the militant history of the workers’ movement, racism and the challenges facing the movement today. The rally concluded with a singing of the Internationale in English, Spanish and French. The march left the park during rush hour, and closed down busy streets on its way to the White House for a closing rally.

Contributing: Ana Maria Ramirez, Aintschel Siqueiros, Andrew Castro, C. Gonçalves, Stefanie Fisher, Deb Malatesta, Mike Prysner, Ian Thompson, Cassie Regan, Ernesto Alfonso, Walter Smolarek, Paul Greenberg, William West, Derek Ford, Natasha Persaud.

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