Triangle Joins May Day Demonstrations Worldwide
On May 1st a number of groups and individuals assembled in downtown Durham to celebrate May Day, joining hundreds of thousands of protesters and strikers worldwide. This year was arguably the US’ biggest May Day since 2006, when immigrants filled the streets and organized school walk-outs all over the country. Over a hundred cities held May Day events across the country, with unpermitted marches, attacks on yuppie restaurants, luxury cars, corporate stores, and police precincts, and strikes happening in Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, and New York among many others. Nearby, Greensboro had a rally and brief breakaway march that resulted in one arrest.
Organized by a coalition of leftist organizations and unions, Durham’s May Day saw three different marches and speeches at CCB Plaza. The first march left from El Kilombo’s social center on Geer St., snaking its way by sidewalk through neighborhoods into downtown. After a brief rally at the plaza, the larger crowd of about 150-200 pushed slowly into the street and sidewalk, led by a number of banners and drums.
Tensions were constant, as some wanted everyone to get on the sidewalk because several undocumented folks were present, while many others desired to take the street. One organizer was heard screaming at a man holding a banner, “I know police, I’m a lawyer; get on the fucking sidewalk!” This same person later called out “the anarchists” for refusing to get out of the street, though a large number of families and individuals seemingly unconnected to anarchist groups had joined in blocking traffic as well. (The irony of anarchist scapegoating, on a day supposedly established to commemorate anarchist martyrs, was not missed.)
Ultimately, people took both the street and the sidewalk, with no police interference (or even presence).
The march continued and made stops at both Town Hall and the Post Office, with brief speeches interspersed. A third stop was supposed to be made in front of the downtown jail, but as a single patrol car pulled up within 100 yards of the facility, organizers and distressed members of the crowd turned around and started milling about confusedly in the opposite direction.
Angered at not getting to address prisoners in the jail, and frustrated with the general tone of things, a lone individual unconnected to the organizing addressed the crowd, encouraging folks to come to the jail if they wished regardless of the organizers’ intents. In the middle of this address, a march organizer ran up, distressed, and yelled to not break up the march. About fifty people ignored him, however, and promptly assembled in front of the jail.
It was the right decision: prisoners banged on their windows and waved small signs that said “I heart you.” Others handed out information about the history of May Day to those visiting their loved ones, while a small troupe did an embodied performance about the prison-industrial complex from Spirithouse’s Collective Sun. Children and their parents waved upward at the cells, while prisoners waved back. Drum sounds echoed off the walls of the jail.
After about 30 minutes, folks decided to march back to the plaza, and took the street almost the entire way with no issues, led in front by a large black banner that read, “Total Liberation from Domination.” The day finished with a series of the usual speeches and milling about, while some handed out a bilingual history of Mayday (which contained an all-too-timely anarchist critique of the Left) and folks headed home.