May Day demonstrators demand justice

May Day demonstrations around the world this year had many themes. The demand for justice was the thread that linked them together.

Here’s a brief summary of a few of those demonstrations.

In Turkey, young people, workers, and other opponents of the country’s president Tayyip Erdogan marched to Taksim Square, the site of an Occupy-like protest  in 2013 that set off strikes and demonstrations across the country that gave voice to those opposing Erdogan’s authoritarian drift.

President Erdogan had banned this year’s May Day demonstration in Taksim Square, and when marchers arrived at Taksim, police fired water cannons and rubber bullets to prevent them from entering the square. More than 100 May Day demonstrators were arrested.

The banning of public protest like the May Day demonstration is yet another example of Erdogan’s willingness to use state power to stifle dissent.

The government in April banned a nationwide strike of metal workers, the third time in the last year that the government has intervened on the side of employers to prevent workers from striking.

Late last year, authorities arrested 30 journalists who were writing about corruption in the Erdogan regime.

In Swaziland, King  Mswatii banned the independent labor federation TUCOSWA from participating in the country’s official May Day celebration.

TUCOSWA has been fighting to increase the minimum wage.

TUCOSWA had planned to hold its own May Day demonstration, but the police threatened to disrupt it, causing the union to cancel its demonstration.

In South Korea, tens of thousands of people turned out for two May Day demonstrations called by the country’s two labor federations, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU).

A week earlier, more than 250,000 workers took part in a general strike called to protest the government’s proposal to restructure the labor market.

The government’s proposals will make it easier to lay off workers and will increase the number of workers working in low-paid, temporary jobs.

The strikers also were opposing the government’s plans to lower pension benefits for government workers.

At the May Day rally, union leaders vowed that strikes will continue if the government continues to pursue its plans to make jobs less secure.

“We must move forward more forcefully to ensure basic labor rights for all workers, to prevent the public servants’ pension system from being changed for the worse, to crush fake normalization of public corporations, to get to the bottom of the Sewol tragedy (the ferry boat accident that killed hundreds of passengers and workers), to repeal the worthless enforcement decree of the special Sewol Law, and to fix the political corruption brought to light by the Sung Wan-jong scandal,” said Han Sang-gyun, president of KCTU at the KCTU May Day demonstration.

In Montreal, dozens of demonstrations were held all over the city to oppose austerity measures proposed by Quebec’s provincial parliament.

The day began when demonstrators blocked the entrance to the National Bank and World Trade Center.

“We’re targeting banks today to send a clear message that banks, even though they’re very profitable, pay less tax than many others in the private sector,” said Joël Pedneault, a spokesperson for the Coalition Against Cuts and Fees to the Montreal Gazette. “We can go and get some money there in order to not introduce austerity measures.”

Teachers also walked off the job to protest proposed cuts to education.

In Oakland, members of ILWU Local 10 closed down the Port of Oakland for eight hours to protest the police killings of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and other young men of color.

“When I’m not a union member, not at work I’m still a community member,” said Stacey Rodgers, a Local 10 member to KQED as she explained why she was participating in the May Day demonstration. “And this affects all of us in the community. Particularly the black and brown communities and the majority of longshoremen are minorities.”

In Seattle and New York, demonstrations for immigrant rights converged with Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

The New York demonstration was organized by the May 1 Coalition, an immigrant rights group.

In New York, May Day demonstrators marched through Manhattan. One of the signs carried read, “Equal Rights for All Workers, Stop the Raids and Deportations.” Another read, “May Day for Freddy Gray.

“This year’s (May Day) event is dedicated to the struggle against police terror given the deep crisis for black and Latino youth,” said Teresa Gutierrez, co-coordinator of the May 1st Coalition to CBS New York.


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