Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Tomorrow, May 1, is the General Strike, the “Day Without the 99%”, planned by Occupy, immigrant and labor organizations, and more. Much of what’s being discussed includes a realization that tomorrow’s General Strike isn’t going to “shut down” whole cities, much less the nation. May Day organizers are well aware that for many people, taking a day off from work is very difficult, if not impossible (if you want to keep your job). The May Day strike is recognized as a bigger, visible step that begins a month, and likely a summer, of actions. But primarily, another of many steps, a moment in the process.
Attention by mainstream media – how much and how it spins – will be interesting to watch. I’m still guessing that, in general, the Republicans will use May Day in a scapegoat / scare tactic way, and Democrats will use it in a co-opting / scare tactic way.
May Day, or International Workers Day, has its beginnings in Chicago. At May Day NYC:
The origins of May Day lie in the revolutionary year of 1886: a wave of mass strikes surged across the heartland of America, focused on the fight for an 8-hour day. The American Federation of Labour had adopted a resolution stating ‘eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labour from and after May 1st, 1886’. In Chicago, over 100,000 workers struck. There, during a demonstration on May 3rd, a crowd confronted strike-breakers leaving the nearby McCormick factory, chasing them back inside. Without warning, police opened fire on the crowd, killing four and seriously wounding many.
The following day a rally was called at Haymarket Square to protest the police violence. … As the meeting was winding down, a group of 180 police stormed in and ordered everyone to disperse. A bomb was thrown towards the police line. Who threw it – whether protestor or provocateur – has never been determined. … One police officer was killed, many others were injured. The police opened fire on the crowd, killing dozens. … Eight revolutionary labor leaders were arrested, seven of whom had not even been present in Haymarket at the time. In the absence of any evidence linking them to the bomb, the ‘Chicago Eight’ were tried solely on the basis of their political beliefs. All eight were sentenced to death.
Several years later, in honor of their slain comrades, the Second International Congress declared May 1st International Workers Day.
Ironically – or maybe, just an unsurprising result of government and corporate pressure to erase such unpleasantness from history – May Day is widely celebrated internationally, but not in the nation where it originated. At May Day NYC:
… political repression can be seen in the … attempt to ‘forget’ May Day by renaming it: it was first renamed ‘Americanization Day’ in 1921, then ‘Loyalty Day’ and ‘Legal Day’ in 1958. Another manifestation of this repression can be seen in the attempts in the 1950s to ban May Day marches in NYC … .
Regarding this year’s actions, from Occupy.com:
On November 17, Occupy L.A. and Occupy Long Beach issued a joint call for a nationwide general strike, to occur on May Day 2012. Over the course of the last few months, general assemblies in New York, Oakland, Tampa, Minneapolis, Boston and dozens more have adopted the call.
For more, see May Day Directory, including a selective list of May Day actions around the world, as well as in the U.S.; Taking Back May Day and Where to Find Comprehensive Coverage of May Day’s National Protests.
Not surprisingly, the May Day (and beyond) plans have been noticed by government and corporations. For example, via Bloomberg:
The world’s biggest banks are working with one another and police to gather intelligence as protesters try to rejuvenate the Occupy Wall Street movement with May demonstrations, industry security consultants said. …
Banks cooperating on surveillance are like elk fending off wolves in Yellowstone National Park, (Brian McNary, director of global risk at Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations) said. While other animals try in vain to sprint away alone, elk survive attacks by forming a ring together, he said.
And this from OWS:
… the Obama Administration has released to corporate media a vague bulletin warning of possible terrorist attacks on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death. While the actual date of bin Laden’s death is May 2nd, many media outlets … have reported the date as May 1st. …
While both the FBI and Dept. of Homeland Security … , as well as the White House and top NYPD officials, have said there are no ‘credible’ or ‘specific’ threats, New York Congressman Peter King told local media the public ‘might notice increased security” on May 1st. …
In the same post, the Chicago Sun Times is quoted in regard to a
federal government … decision to create a ‘Red Zone’ … weeks before the NATO summit … .
The Federal Protective Service will deploy additional personnel beginning May 1, bringing in more people from out of town and outfitting them in ‘battle dress uniform.’ They will be carrying ‘non-lethal’ long guns … .
Put it all together, and this seems like a good way to close. From Press Action:
1,000 Reasons to Strike on May 1
No more denial. No more excuses. No more pretending everything is okay. No more waiting for someone else to step up and do it for us. …
(May 2012 Poster via OWS News)