Human animals have at least as many seasonal habits as our less verbal counterparts (ahem, other mammals). We stuff our faces to prepare for winter, sleepwalk all the way through “the dark season,” and then hop straight into cleaning, organizing, and mating when the sun finally comes out again. One other rite of spring: Americans’ blissful ignorance of International Workers’ Day – aka today, May 1st – in favor of fall’s supposedly more benign Labor Day.
International Workers’ Day, as you may or may not know, commemorates the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago, which began with a peaceful protest for the right to an 8-hour workday. At some point during the protest, someone threw dynamite at the police, who then began to fire indiscriminately into the crowd. In the end, over ten protestors and police officers were dead. A few years later, the first congress of France’s Second International, an organization of socialist and labor parties, called for international demonstrations to celebrate the riot’s anniversary, and the modern incarnation of International Workers’ Day (May Day) was born—i.e., celebrated as a holiday by nearly 80 countries outside the United States, but not the U.S. itself.
Will May 1st, 2012, be any different? The Occupy movement has called for a general strike in cities across the U.S., including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York. Actions were originally planned to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge in support of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition’s plan to strike; the GGBLC has gone on record to ask their supporters to keep the bridge open. Late last night, protesters gathered in Dolores Park, San Francisco (the heart of the Mission district) and marched down the streets, breaking car and shop windows along the way.
In honor of International Worker’s Day, a holiday meant to champion not just the achievements of workers but the potential of mass protest to transcend vandalism, especially against unfair and inhumane treatment by employers, #hashtags is asking you to submit your favorite piece of labor-related art to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll add as many images as we can throughout the day (permissions willing).
Happy May Day, everyone.