Progress Illinois recaps two separate May Day demonstrations that took place Friday, including a protest by the "May Day Radical Coalition" and a rally at the Haymarket Memorial with workers and labor leaders.
A few hundred anti-capitalist activists calling themselves the "May Day Radical Coalition" demonstrated Friday on International Workers' Day to speak out for the rights of the "oppressed and exploited."
"The main message is that we're trying to build a militant, working-class, rank-and-file movement -- one that's nonsectarian and one that's inclusive to combat, among other things, state oppression," said Dan Bono with Industrial Workers of the World, one of the nine groups spearheading the May Day Radical Coalition. "Many times in the past we've see that May Day has been whitewashed. That many different organizations and labor unions have been using it as a forum to call for the reform of [the] capitalist system, while the origin of May Day lies in the abolition of capitalism -- that there can be no peace as long as very few people in this world own everything and the majority is just scraping by."
International Workers' Day, also known is May Day, is an annual commemoration of the Haymarket Square riot that took place in Chicago in 1886 during the peak of the American labor movement. The day is typically marked by labor-focused demonstrations around the world.
In the late afternoon, May Day demonstrators marched from Chicago's Union Park on the Near West Side to the Cook County Jail on the near Southwest Side. Protesters called attention to a range of economic and social issues, including police violence.
"Until you deal with inequality, you're going to have racist police violence. You're going to have the horrible violence within communities," said Andy Thayer with the Gay Liberation Network, which is a part of the May Day Radical Coalition. "We live in the most unequal society of the advanced industrialized countries in the world by far. And you can't tell me that we don't have the resources to lessen this inequality, because we spend as much on our military as almost the rest of the world combined. But our betters ... insist on attacking labor rights, insist on not addressing racism in a real way in this country."
Friday's demonstration came the same day news broke that six officers are being charged in connection to the Freddie Gray killing in Baltimore. Gray, a 25-year-old African-American male, died a week after suffering a severe spinal cord injury while in Baltimore police custody. Prosecutors said Gray's death has been ruled a homicide and that his arrest was illegal.
Gray's death is one of many high-profile police killings that have sparked "Black Lives Matter" protests across the nation, including Chicago.
At today's demonstration, Kelly Hayes with We Charge Genocide spoke about the growing momentum behind the "Black Lives Matter" movement.
"Institutions and structures of power typically rely on these kinds of things losing steam quickly," she said. "And that hasn't happened here, and we've seen Black Lives Matter protests in Chicago. They flourished through the fall and even managed to stay active during the cold winter months. And here we are again, and the reality is they cannot depend on it slowing down, because they will keep creating new hashtags for people to mourn, they will keep creating new reasons for people to mobilize. It really has energized even the youngest people."
During their march, May Day activists also stopped off at the Mexican Consulate in Chicago, located at 204 S. Ashland Ave. There, they demanded justice for the 43 Mexican students who went missing last September in Guerrero, Mexico. Demonstrators pasted posters of the missing Mexican students onto the consulate's building. Though the May Day protesters were disruptive, they were non-violent.
Check out scenes from the May Day Radical Coalition's demonstration plus comments from Alison Olhava with Industrial Workers of the World:
A separate May Day rally with workers, labor unions and their supporters was held earlier Friday afternoon at Chicago's Haymarket Memorial, at 175 North Desplaines St.
At the rally, the Illinois Labor History Society dedicated two new plaques at the memorial, which commemorates the Haymarket Tragedy. The event, attended by a few hundred people, featured remarks from workers and labor leaders, including AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch, Chicago Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer Robert Reiter and McDonald's worker Adriana Sanchez.
Here's some of what they had to say:
Several speakers, including Lynch, railed against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's anti-union efforts.
"All of the things that make up the American dream are under assault today," she told the crowd. "The frontlines of that assault is here in the state of Illinois, because there is no other state in the country that has a governor who is leading the assault to destroy organized labor.
"The task before us is clear, and we are waging it everyday," Lynch continued. "In every, village, county and city in the state of Illinois -- where Bruce Rauner has gone to pass his destroy-union resolution -- the labor movement has come out" to reject such measures.
Lynch was referring to the governor's efforts to get Illinois municipalities to pass supportive resolutions related to his push in support of right-to-work zones as well as his views on the prevailing wage, worker compensation and other items on the Republican's "turnaround" agenda for the state.
"We're rising up, and we must rise ever stronger. We're united, and we must be ever more united," she said. "There is a war on workers, and it is a war we must and we will win."