As predicted, this Mayday was one to remember. Actions were held from New Orleans to Kuala Lumpur and everywhere in between. There were strikes, marches, occupations, clashes, arrests and parties, some drawing enormous crowds. Like something out of history books, people took to the streets again, in an international outpouring of solidarity, showing once again that worker’s rights are far from a thing of the past.

Mayday in Union Square, NY, 1912 and 2012 – The Atlantic

Locally, we saw two marches. The Steelworkers’ 1005 local held their annual march, leaving from their hall and visiting plans like US Steel (former Stelco) and then returning for a BBQ. I didn’t manage to make it down, but I hear the response was pretty good. Downtown, over a hundred of us marched and danced around the core, complete with a small marching band (the Hammersauce Noise Brigade). The response from onlookers was unlike anything I’ve seen in years – for once we weren’t being scoweled at and I didn’t hear a single person shouting obscenities in our direction. Instead people looked on in awe and many joined in, especially after a brief stop at King & James when a generator and soundsystem were unveiled on a bike cart and began pumping music. As the crowd returned to the park, a whole host of musicians, speeches and games were put on (even a round of “Austerity Jeopardy”). There were kids and neighbours everywhere, and never-ending lineup for the free hot-dog stand. Police maintained a constant and often heavy presence with bikes, cruisers and horses, but the entire events went without serious incident, to the credit of both sides. Demonstrators and police walked a fine line all day between being cordial and confrontational, with the march at times openly defying police orders or catching them by surprise with random direction changes, but it was generally taken with some humour. They even let off their sirens after the end of “CIA” with KRS-One and Zach De La Rocha. All in all, it was one of the most fun and inspiring actions I’ve seen in ages.

Spec Coverage (witness the grooving cop near the end of the video).

Here, by the way, would be an example of anarchists organizing an event which was totally nonviolent, festive and family-friendly. The M1 Committee worked feverishly over the past month with a very wide range of groups, from the Beasley Neighbourhood Association (who generously offered cooking space in their park and community centre) to unions like CUPE 3906. Some were wary, to be sure, but there were no broken windows, vandalism or arrests. Hamilton just isn’t like that – we’re too much of a community, radical or not. Even among Ontario anarchists, Steeltown has a reputation for this kind of constructive action. Let’s all hope it continues.

Elsewhere, things were not so peaceful. Mayday was celebrated around the globe, often on a scale not seen in years or decades. New York, London, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal and countless others saw major protests and clashes with police. Though not quite a “general” strike, many unions did walk out in solidarity, particularly in California. Numerous banks windows and ATMs got smashed, and a great many were arrested or beaten (usually more for chalking or blocking traffic). Attempts at re-occupying public spaces were made in a number of cities, though generally cleared quickly by police.

Toronto – Media Coop
Montreal – Media Coop
New York – Salon.com
Worldwide Photo Collection – News of the World/Seattle Post Intelligencer

This struggle cannot be confined to any single group, any issue or country – it’s gone global. This Mayday provided a snapshot of how many communities, from the Pacific rim to American Midwest were willing to hold actions and events. As the crowds clear and public spaces return to “normal”, one question remains…

What now?

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