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(en) Canada, LinchPin #16 - a publication of common cause* - Bwild the general strike shut down capitalism - May Day

Date Sun, 26 Aug 2012 00:01:45 +0300

Hamilton ---- After a brief hiatus, the Steel City was once again home to large scale May Day demonstrations and celebrations. In previous years the 1st of May has been marked by street festivals and labour demonstrations, often organized by coalitions of labour and community groups. This year two simultaneous marches took to the streets taking aim at austerity measures. A march through downtown ending in a block party was organized by the May 1st Committee, while United Steel Workers 1005 hosted their own march the industrial area of the East End, followed by a BBQ. ---- Prior to May 1st the M1 Committee was involved in helping organize or promote a number of lead up events during the last week of April. These events included a Critical Mass bike ride, a music and spoken word show, a ‘History of May Day’ educational event and an outdoor movie screening.

As for May Day itself, a festive and disruptive street
march would start in Beasley Park and snake it’s
way through the core with the intention to“reclaim
the streets from the monotonous, capitalist grind”.

Approximately 120 people who had gathered
in the park would join in on the march, while
childcare and activities were provided for families
who preferred to hang out in Beasley. By 3PM the
unpermitted march made its way to the north exit of
Beasley Park and hit the streets, ignoring the cops
who attempted to block the way. Once the crowd
reached the central intersection of King and James
a sound system was unveiled, making for a high
energy, festive atmosphere as the march occupied
all four lanes of the downtown street – with the
police struggling to keep up. As the party passed
by MacMaster’s downtown campus, a speech from
the militant student organization CLASSE was
read, while red streamers thrown from the crowd
redecorated the building in solidarity with the
ongoing Quebec student strike.

Once the march wound down, participants
made their way back to Beasley park for a
community block party. A free BBQ and other food
was provided, along with games, music and free


For the first time since 2006, this year Kitchener
hosted its own May Day celebration. The day
included both lessons from the city’s past and also a
very strong showing from local community groups.
May Day in Kitchener was not about starting anew,
or coming together for just one day out of the year;
instead, there was a strong emphasis on building a
sense of continuation in our collective struggles.

The day began in Victoria Park, where
people gathered for a free community meal, a
legal workshop, a soccer game and a radical choir
rehearsal. Across the park, the police horses were
also gathering – despite the fact that nobody had
invited them. Before setting off to march, a vigil
was led by local group Poverty Makes Us Sick,
highlighting capitalism’s continued attack on our
bodies. The region has experienced numerous
work-related deaths and accidents in recent years,
including the death of ten temporary foreign
workers from Peru, killed in a vehicle accident
this past February. A member of Common Cause
KW called the marchers attention to the memory
of the Haymarket massacre and another individual
came forward to add his father’s name to the list
of workers killed on the job. The vigil ended in a
moment of silence.

At 5pm a crowd of 125 people set off to march
behind a banner proclaiming “INTERNATIONAL
MAYDAY UNITES.” The march began by heading
up towards the Cedar Hill neighbourhood, an area
facing rapid gentrification, home to low income
rates, bad landlords, and high density population
– but also an area with a strong working class
tradition and a strong sense of community. Taking
the march through this residential zone (also the
city’s oldest) set a great vibe for the march and local
residents were tipped off to the day’s events through
a community letter which organizers had delivered
days before. Chants for affordable housing rang
out in the streets, and as the march wound out of
the neighbourhood, a busy intersection was briefly
occupied where a member of the Spot Collective
(a local group working with downtown youth),
spoke of past actions that had led to the building of
a subsidized housing complex in the area.

The next stop was Kitchener’s new Mega
Courthouse – a monstrosity of a building that came
with a $766 million dollar price tag. It was only
fitting that the song “The walls will all fall down” be
performed. Led by local musician Richard Garvey,
the marchers sang along (thanks to the earlier choir
practice and nifty song/chant books provided) to
make for a powerful moment. This was followed
by the blocking of another intersection – this time
the busy intersection of Victoria and Duke. Here a
member of Poverty Make Us Sick highlighted how
trendy cupcake shops serve as clear markers of
gentrification, catering to newly arrived students,
professionals and urban elites and encroaching on
traditional downtown communities (the shop being
referenced was located across the street from a
local community soup kitchen).

The next stop on the route was easy, as TD
Bank decided to shut down before the marchers
even arrived. I guess they will never know if the
plan was to stop by or not, either way, the flows of
capital were stopped with little effort and the march
continued to City Hall where four banners were
dropped. The largest read “Stop The Cuts, Status
For All,” alongside a banner reading “Vive Les
Ètudes Libres.” – a nod of solidarity to the Quebec
student movement. At this point another member
of Poverty Makes Us Sick delivered a passionate
speech about economic injustice and how it has
played out provincially. From there the marchers
headed over to shame and expose some local “pay-
day” loan sharks; a Common Cause KW member
posted a community notice on their doors, while
a community member gave a speech demanding
local alternatives to exploitative loan schemes.

Once again, an intersection was blocked for this
action, as more onlookers cheered on and joined
the march. After one more action (where the Spot
Collective briefly occupied the entrance to a local
and despised condo development office and model
home), the march ended up at Speaker’s Corner,
where the crowd was treated to music from The
Black Wood Two and Richard Garvey. A message
from CLASSE was read out, followed by a speech
about the history of the Chilean miner’s strike and
that country’s current student movement. Finally,
a speech was given by a member of the Alliance
Against Poverty (AAP), who threw in a great
rendition of the song ‘Joe Hill.’ An open mic was
offered to finish off the day, with a local professor
speaking on the possibility of an upcoming struggle
at one of our local Universities.

May Day in Kitchener was a great success and
hopefully the tradition takes hold in our community,
and next year’s event is even better. Normally, this
is where we would state that those who attended
need to keep active for the rest of the year, but we
feel that those who participated in the day’s events
have been organizing around these issues for quite
some time already, and May Day served as a nice
way to highlight and appreciate these struggles, as
well as to hopefully get others involved. Although
union participation was pretty sparse at the event,
this points to an area of potential growth for next
year’s May Day.


About 60 people gathered at Victoria Park,
in downtown London for this year’s May Day
festivities. Speeches were made about neoliberal
attacks on workers, Occupy London, immigration
reform and women’s rights. After the speeches were
done, the assembled activists took to the streets for a
brief yet spirited march through the downtown core.
While it was a definite improvement that London
held a May Day rally this year, overall the event
itself was resoundingly mediocre. Although we do
not wish to denigrate the speakers and organizers,
and the effort that went into planning and promoting
the event, the day did not push any boundaries.
While this year’s events were undoubtedly a step
up from previous years, overall it still appeared as
simply yet another Occupy London rally without
much support or interest from the broader public.
For Mayday to be a success in London, we need to
come up with something more creative to to engage
the public and draw in rank and file trade union
members. We really need to step up our organizing
through militant affinity groups and radical street
actions if we want to garner more interest.


This year’s Toronto May Day festivities were
a joint effort of No One Is Illegal (NOII), The May
1st Movement (M1M) and Occupy Toronto. That
level of cooperation in and of itself was a major
improvement on May Days past, which have often
been marked by an unfortunate level of factionalism.
Over the past several years, disagreements between
NOII and M1M (a coalition of socialist and anti-
imperialist organizations of varying stripes, many
of whom work within established immigrant
communities) have led to two separate marches,
dividing activists along social and political lines.

Occupy Toronto, as the local manifestation of the
North American “Occupy May Day” campaign, added a new
element to the mix – infusing our city’s May Day celebrations
with a much needed sense that activists in Toronto are indeed part
of a larger movement of working class resistance, and offering
the two groups an impetus to bridge their differences in order to
organize collectively.

The day itself was full of creative actions and events.
Beginning at 11am, a human chess board was set up at Nathan
Phillips Square, with participants demonstrating through street
theatre how pawns can work collectively to take action against
their (seemingly) more powerful masters.

At noon, Occupy Gardens – an offshoot project of Occupy
Toronto – held a picnic and planted a vegetable garden in Queen’s
Park. Organizers highlighted the need for food security, and
spoke of the inherent injustice of the current world food system.
At 2pm, a coordinated high-school walkout was planned, in
solidarity with the Quebec student strike. This event had been
hastily organized in the two weeks leading up to May Day, with
outreach primarily centred around six high-schools in and around
the downtown core and supplemented by a social-media driven
online campaign. While there had been a considerable deal of
enthusiasm demonstrated by receptive students during several
days of mass flyering on and around high-school campuses,
the results of the walkout were difficult to quantify – with no
more than a couple dozen students making the trek to join the
larger demonstration called for Queens Park at 3pm. Exactly
what number of students opted to walk out but not attend the
larger demonstration, to skip class and go home, or to ignore the
walk-out entirely, is uncertain. Those who did arrive to join the
larger demonstration, however, were extremely enthusiastic and
militant participants in the day’s events.

At 4pm, the main May Day march began to assemble
in front of Nathan Phillips Square. The crowd soon swelled
to approximately 1500 people. After several speeches and a
delicious meal prepared by Food Not Bombs, the march set
off west on Queen Street. The primary message of the event
was a call to respect Indigenous sovereignty, and the march
was accordingly led by Indigenous Elders and the region’s
ceremonial Eagle Staff Bearer. The other main messages of the
march, as included in its call out, were to demonstrate “that no
one is illegal, for international workers solidarity, to defend and
expand public services, to stop prison expansion and corporate
bail-outs, to end imperialist wars and aggression, to build
people’s power, and to move beyond capitalism.” This list of
demands, reminiscent of the pluralism of the anti-globalization
movement and similar to the organizational framework of the
Toronto Community Mobilization Network (TCMN) that
helped coordinate the resistance to the 2010 Toronto G20
Summit, was used in place of the call for a world-wide
general strike that emerged from the broader Occupy
Movement. This tactical approach points to a particular
strength of the activist left in Toronto, but also to one of
its weaknesses. Toronto is a city with an institutionalized
network of community organizations that are able to
consistently mobilize their supporters around respective
issues, and who are effective at collaborating together
around shared projects and one-off events. On the other
hand, this dynamic also contributes to a tendency to pay
lip service to causes, while fostering an unconscious
avoidance of the long-term strategic organizing necessary
to achieve social change.

The march itself was lively, with a large anti-capitalist
block that included a sizable anarchist contingent.
Organized labour did not participate en masse, though
there was a spattering of flags denoting various union
locals spread throughout the crowd. While the OFL had
added its name to the list of endorsing organizations,
they had not mobilized their membership – having
instead thrown their muscle behind a large parade on
April 21st that they had full organizational control over.
Even without their numbers, the march grew to perhaps
3000 people at its height. After several speaking stops
and blocked intersections, the march reached its final
destination, Alexandra Park – where a cultural event and
concert continued on until approximately 9pm.

As the cultural event drew to a close, Occupy Toronto
led a crowd of protesters south on Bathurst to “occupy the
heart of the beast”. The first target of Occupy Toronto’s
new strategy of 24 hour roaming occupations, the
previously undisclosed location turned out to be Simcoe
Park, a site in the financial district that lies adjacent to the
CBC and the Metro Convention Centre - where the annual
Barrick Gold AGM was set to take place the following
day. Once the crowd arrived at their new occupation site,
they were immediately surrounded by mounted police
and told that they were forbidden to assemble structures
of any kind. Three protest chaplains from Occupy Toronto
put this dictate to the test by attempting to assemble a
tent they had brought with them. They were promptly
arrested, contributing to a tense standoff that eased once
the occupiers refused to disperse and the cops backed
down. The occupation stayed throughout the night and for
the better part of the next day, leaving only after they all
pitched in to clean the park.
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