International Workers’ Day, or May Day, is celebrated on May 1st each year—that’s today. This international holiday is celebrated as a national holiday in more than 80 countries, and is generally observed by the working class and members of labor unions.
May Day dates back to the late 1800s, in a time when workers were regularly holding strikes for the 8-hour workday. Today, working eight hours per day or forty hours per week has become tradition for most regular full-time employees. May Day is celebrated today both to commemorate past successful strikes and demonstrations and to further improve workers’ rights.
There is a history of violence that comes along with May Day, though, and one that workers and employers alike should be aware of. Major riots happened in 1894 and 1919. But more recently, last year’s demonstrations in Seattle also turned violent. Glass bottles were thrown at police, local business windows were shattered, cars were vandalized, walls and windows were spray painted, and protesters were hit with pepper spray and police batons.
Five anarchists were charged in the riots, with police and government entities searching for others connected to the incident. This year, law enforcement officials say they’re upping security and keeping their eyes wide open for any signs of violence like last year. Anarchists likewise seem to be preparing for a “week of action,” though whether that includes similar violence is yet to be seen.
The state’s capital city, Olympia, is preparing for the worst. Chatter around organized anarchist events in the city have officials on high alert. Businesses have been alerted to the possibility of riots, but most have shrugged off the potential danger.
“It’s your bigger corporations, your banks, furniture shops, high-end jewelry shops [that get targeted],” said small business owner Ray Figueroa. “We’re not targeted as that political scapegoat.”
All the same, it’s good to be aware that for those of us in cities there may be some demonstrations, protests, rallies, parades, or possibly rioting going on today. Be smart and be safe.