May 1, 2017
Thousands rallied in observance of May Day today in New York City. There was a rally in the afternoon that took place in Union Square, and one that began at 5 PM downtown. Around 6:30 PM, the Union Square attendees joined their Foley Square brothers and sisters following a heavily policed march.
Speakers took the opportunity this year to champion immigrants. While May Day is an international celebration of labor solidarity and strength, in the United States its raison d’être is less clear. After all, there’s Labor Day in September to honor the working class – or at least to give them a three day weekend before the kids head back to school.
And here, the unofficial end of summer became Labor Day largely in response to labors’ success in wresting concessions from employers, specifically, the 8 hour work day. Per Britannica:
In 1889 an international federation of socialist groups and trade unions designated May 1 as a day in support of workers, in commemoration of the Haymarket Riot in Chicago (1886). Five years later, U.S. Pres. Grover Cleveland, uneasy with the socialist origins of Workers’ Day, signed legislation to make Labor Day—already held in some states on the first Monday of September—the official U.S. holiday in honour of workers. Canada followed suit not long afterward.
And ever since, May Day has been Labor’s day mostly in countries other than the USA. So today’s gathering brought together the themes of organized labor and immigration. Ironically, open borders and cheap immigrant labor have been anathema to unionists and mothers’ milk to capitalists. But in the topsy turvey world of 2017, here was labor championing immigration while a cabal of plutocrats in DC opposes it. Red is blue, right wingers are in love with Russia, while lefties make old Joe McCarthy roll over in his grave and blush with their anti-Russian hanangues. Up is down, real is fake, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength. Happy May Day, to all!
In keeping with the bizarre plot line, a Facebook group known as The Modern Patriots trolled the May Day crowd with American flags and Trump banners. Some were decked out in gas masks and helmets, suggesting they were prepared, even if not looking, for trouble. Taking the bait, some of the original May Day ralliers attempted to prevent them from entering the park, at which point the trap was sprung. “You say you’re against The Wall, but you’re forming a human wall to keep us out!” And, “Doncha believe in the 1st Amendment? What about OUR Right of Free Speech?” It was absurd.
Asked by a reporter about the group’s intentions for the rally, one member, Hope, said “to make America great again.” Asked about the group’s origin, philosophy, and goals, she demurred and said she had to go. Another member, Tim Rosen, said the group are Trump supporters and against immigration. There were fewer than two dozen of them but they definitely made a little splash at the corner of Worth and Center Streets.
Not to be outdone, Antifa arrived wearing their all black outfits, their faces hidden beneath black bandanas, and tried to get at the Trump group. A standoff ensued with a dozen white shirted NYPD officers holding the tense ground separating them and countless blue uniformed cops surrounding them all. After half an hour of yelling at each other, the antifascists drifted off, perhaps in search of a more accessible foe.
Meanwhile, on the main stage, the Resistance Band delighted the crowd with their brass and drum renditions of musical favorites including Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song; Do You Hear the People Sing, from Les Miserables; Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land, and America aka God Save the Queen. A source backstage stated that the band’s everyday job is playing in Broadway orchestras, but the Gazette was unable to confirm that with any of the musicians.
New York City political activist Linda Sarsour, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Tish James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Mayor Bill DiBlasio all addressed the crowd. Hip hop artist Division X also performed a set on the main stage. City Council District 40 candidate Brian Cunningham of Brooklyn was standing nearby and shared these thoughts with the Gazette: “As the son of immigrants, I’m deeply concerned about the tone coming out of DC. Now, more than ever, we need a municipal government that will fight for the rights of immigrants.” Brian’s district is largely composed of immigrants from the Caribbean, especially Haiti.