Among many Seattle-area activists, the handful of broken windows and black-clad agitators that marred last year’s May Day were almost equally as annoying as the way the media fixated on them – to the detriment of the important social issues the large majority of those involved were trying to bring attention to. Traditional May Day themes like workers’ rights and immigration issues took a back burner to the “anarchists” and their path of destruction, at least as far as the news was concerned.
Of course, that didn’t stop the 13th annual May Day March for Worker and Immigrant Rights from gathering at Judkins Park in the Central District this afternoon, drawing a diverse mix of labor and immigration activists – not to mention a few members of the Salish CIRCA and at least one real-life “superhero” - all intent on beating the drum for their various causes. Taking off from the park en route to the Jackson Federal Building at about 3 p.m., the lead up to the immigration and workers’ rights march was predictably peaceful, and focused on matters far more important than broken windows at NikeTown.
“It’s a shame that the press focused so much on the destruction and not on the message of workers’ rights and immigration reform. We didn’t choose to do that, that was the press; it’s not our option,”Chairperson of the May 1st Action Coalition, Juan Jose Bocanegra, told Seattle Weekly of last year’s May Day. “The importance is the immigrant rights march, and bringing in some justice for workers who are here undocumented.”
Bocanegra said he expected more than 2,000 to 3,000 to participate in the march.
With every news organization in town converging on Judkins Park for the lead up to the annual march, and no broken windows to speak of, there’s a least a hope that the tenor of this year’s coverage will be different. According to a joint press release issued in advance of today’s festivities from the El Comité Pro Reforma Migratoria Y Justicia Social and the May 1st Action Coalition, the organizations responsible for planning the 13th annual rally and march: “In the spirit of unity and solidarity with communities across the country, organizers in Seattle will focus on a universal theme: standing together with all workers regardless of race, class, gender, religious affiliation, sexual identity, ability, and documented status.”
Steve Leigh, who was in attendance at Judkins park on behalf of the International Socialist Organization, says he’s attended every year of the march. This year he says immigration reform efforts were at the front of his mind. Not happy with some of the current plans and ideas ruminating in Washington D.C., Leigh says, “We need to put a lot of pressure on Congress” to get it right and make sure people of every class and ethnicity are treated fairly. Leigh says efforts like today’s immigration and workers’ rights march are a good way to ratchet up that pressure, and they get people’s attention.
Representative of the diverse crowd on hand, a gentleman associating with members of the Salish Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA) said simply: “There are a number of different causes here today. They’re all connected.”
To see more photos from the pre-march gathering at Judkins Park, click on the link in the pictures above.