In the words of one of my favourite bartenders in the city, May Day is the day when the city “just becomes stupid”. A quick google search pretty much confirms his viewpoint.
Before we get into why the city becomes so crazy, let me provide a little context for you, just a little bit of background to the significance of the date.
To summarise, May Day protests in the U.S. have their roots in the 19th century struggle for workers rights and stem from the Chicago strikes in 1886 where workers were fighting for the right to decent working hours, as opposed to the 12-16 hour days they were working at the time. During these strikes, clashes with police became common, including a number of protestor deaths, and a gathering in defiance of police brutality was organised at the city’s Haymarket Station, where immigrants, socialists and, of course, those branded anarchists faced off against police. That was until someone lobbed a bomb into the mix, causing multiple casualties on both sides. Although nobody knows the identity of said bomb-lobber remains unknown, as is always the case in this wonderful world, four activists were charged and hanged in the resulting backlash.
So May Day began as a day of memorial for the lost lives and as a way to reignite the flame of the workers’ movement. However, even after the Fair Labour Standards Act was introduced in the 1930s, the day lived on. Throughout the 20th century, social issues such as the rights of women and immigrants became the focus, as well as anti-war protests and marches.
The 21st century is a different animal, however, and the world has changed a lot since those early, formative years of the May Day Marches. While Seattle does indeed have the march for workers and immigrants rights, as well as a veterans anti-war march, the evolution, or mutation depending on your preferred terminology and viewpoint, of May Day is evident, not only from the past riots that have happened downtown, but the focus of numerous “new” protests.
We have the May Day of Resistance, Anonymous’ May Day March Seattle, May Day Anti-capitalist March, May Day Anti-fascist March and, of course, May Day Anti-communist March, the single largest threat to the U.S. (but not really). Add to the pot, the polarizing issue of Trump’s presidency and we have ourselves the perfect conditions for a city that’s essentially a tinderbox waiting for a spark.
And that spark seems likely to come again this year.
Every year since 2012, the city has just gone “stupid” on May Day. Hidden among the protestors are a minority who, as far as I can see, have the sole intention of causing as much carnage as they can. Each year, police officers in Seattle are injured on May Day as a direct result of this minority.
As I said in my “Seattle is…” post, the city is chilled and relaxed. I haven’t encountered a single bit of aggro and haven’t witnessed any arguments or confrontations in the street. Every other weekend there’s a protest in Seattle, it almost seems like the ultimate pastime for the people of the city, so why is it only today that the shit really hits the fan?
We aren’t talking police injured in scuffles, we’re talking protestors with Molotov Cocktails and bags filled with rocks, brought with the apparent intent of damage to property and police.
Now that’s not really cool and, as I’m sure you can imagine, this then leads to the police defending themselves, in many cases with tear gas, with scenes like the one below not being entirely uncommon on this day, at least in recent years.
So what’s the point? I don’t know. As far as my research shows, it seems that the idea is to “send a message”, although what that message is I don’t know. Perhaps I’m just not down with the coded language of throwing projectiles at people and store windows. Maybe it’s just my accent. Who knows.
Anyway, in what is probably a rash and idiotic decision, I’m going to head to Downtown at some point today and try and get a feel for the vibe. No doubt there will be a Ross Kemp moment where “I’ll see things are about to kick off and need to get out of there” but I think it’s the best way to understand it.
So, if you want to see what’s going on with the protests, then follow me on Instagram, I’ll be posting all day. The link hasn’t moved. It’s still right there at the bottom of the page.
If you want more of an overview, then it’s #MayDaySea, but, obviously, still follow me on Instagram.
Anyway guys, that’s all for just now. I’m off to buy a $700 bike helmet for protection before I head out.
As always, like, share, follow and take it easy…