Sunday 19 November 2017

Everything you need to know about May Day marches around the world

By Georgia Humphreys

May 1 is International Workers’ Day.

People across the world take to the streets on May 1 each year to commemorate International Workers’ Day.

Here’s everything you need to know about the marches.

Why do marches take place on May Day?

May Day, which is a public holiday in some countries, is often used to commemorate workers or protest for their rights.

The origins of May Day go back to the 1880s in the US, when unions pushing for better workplace conditions began advocating for an eight-hour workday with demonstrations and strikes nationwide.

In May 1886, a labour rally in Chicago turned deadly when a bomb was thrown and police opened retaliatory fire. Several labour activists, most of them immigrants, were convicted of conspiracy to incite violence among other charges and four of them were hanged.

Unions later recommended that May 1 be designated to honour the workers who were charged.

Are there any marches this year that we should know about in particular?

Less than a week before the run-off French presidential election between Emmanuel Macron and former National Front leader Marine Le Pen, one May Day march in Paris was disrupted as scores of hooded youths threw firebombs at riot police in full gear, who responded with tear gas and truncheons. One policeman was seen spraying a troublemaker in the face.

Two police officers were reported injured, according to French television.

The violent protesters were not carrying union paraphernalia or anything linked to the French electoral campaign, appearing to be from fringe groups that have targeted anti-government protests in the past.

The march was also used by some as an anti-Le Pen demonstration. Some urged French workers to vote for Macron but others refused to make that call, including far-left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon who was eliminated in the first-round vote on April 23.

Tear gas was also used by police in Turkey, along with plastic bullets, to disperse around 200 May Day demonstrators as they attempted to defy a ban and meet at Taksim Square.

Protesters held anti-government banners against the result of last month’s referendum, which gave President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

What was the May Day march in London like?

Crowds assembled at Clerkenwell Green from midday where they marched to a rally in Trafalgar Square.

Speakers at the rally included shadow chancellor John McDonnell and PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka.

Many of those marching carried signs and banners.

Some people appeared to use the march as an opportunity to show their support for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

And in America?

Immigrant and union groups were expected to march in cities across the United States to mark May Day and protest against President Donald Trump’s efforts to boost deportations.

Tens of thousands of immigrants and their allies are due to rally in cities such as New York, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles. Demonstrations also are planned for dozens of smaller cities from Ft Lauderdale, Florida, to Portland, Oregon.

In many places, activists are urging people to skip work, school and shopping to show the importance of immigrants in American communities.

The day has become a rallying point for immigrants in the US since demonstrations were held in 2006 against a proposed immigration enforcement bill.

Press Association

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