By Fighting Words Staff
Activists from various labor and mass struggles shared their perspectives on the campaigns for raising the minimum wage, environmental justice against climate change, youth workers organizing a union in the Starbucks corporation, immigrant rights, police brutality, along with a myriad of issues.
Artists Sarah Torres, One Single Rose, Wanda Olugbala, BWardPoetry, Jeremy Kyle, Kitchen and Alex Webb performed.
Speakers were present such as the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, D15, Diajha Ruffin of the Motor City Freedom Riders, Tristan Taylor of Detroit Will Breathe, Maureen Taylor of The Poor People’s Campaign, Adonis of Michigan United, Eloise from Liberia and organizer for Michigan United, Sahar Faraj of the Palestinian Youth Movement, and Jackie Starr from Observers of the Court in Oakland County.
Statements of solidarity were read from Jesus Rodriguez Espinoza of the Orinoco Tribune in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor and the organization of injured GM workers in Colombia, Asotrecol.
International Workers Day Celebrated Throughout the Globe
The May Day commemoration is traced back to the Haymarket incident in Chicago during 1886 when workers called for a general strike demanding an 8-hour day. At the march, an explosion took place killing several people including policemen.
Numerous activists within the workers movement were arrested and charged with giving speeches that led to the explosion. None were even present when the bomb went off. Eventually, four leaders were executed by the United States authorities, although none of them were ever proven to be culpable in the crimes they were charged and convicted.
One account of the events of May 1886 says:
“The Haymarket Square Riot set off a national wave of xenophobia, as hundreds of foreign-born radicals and labor leaders were rounded up in Chicago and elsewhere. A grand jury eventually indicted 31 suspected labor radicals in connection with the bombing, and eight men were convicted in a sensational and controversial trial. Judge Joseph E. Gary imposed the death sentence on seven of the men, and the eighth was sentenced to 15 years in prison. On November 11, 1887, Samuel Fielden, Adolph Fischer, August Spies and Albert Parson were executed. Of the three others sentenced to death, one died by suicide on the eve of his execution and the other two had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment by Illinois Governor Richard J. Oglesby. Governor Oglesby was reacting to widespread public questioning of their guilt, which later led his successor, Governor John P. Altgeld, to pardon fully the three activists still living in 1893.”
Since the late 1880s, socialist and anarchist groupings have called for demonstrations on May Day. In the U.S., in the wake of the Cold War anti-communist hysteria of the post-World War II period, May Day was largely suppressed as a mass workers’ holiday to advance the demands of the prolietariat.
In 2006, the immigrant community resurrected May Day with general strikes, marches and other forms of resistance demanding justice for migrant workers and their families. Many of these demonstrations demanded full legalization in the U.S.
Around the world May Day is celebrated in South Africa, Eritrea, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), among other states.
With COVID-19 pandemic taking over one million lives in the U.S. compounded by the White House’s war drive in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, the plight of the workers and oppressed has worsened since 2020.
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