May 1st in the Twin Cities
by Elijah Marks
The celebration of International Workers’ Day in the Twin Cities brought together many groups organizing around various struggles. The resurgent Occupy movement has injected new energy into the holiday.
Local organizing coalesced in an Occupy May 1st Twin Cities group, planning for a day of action around ‘no work, no school’ and a ‘day without the 99%’ For months leading up to the action, they met weekly at the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)’s office to coordinate with other groups, plan events for the day, and make and spread posters and leaflets.
The mutual aid ethos of the wider Occupy movement was demonstrated through Occuprint, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street in New York City, who helped with May 1st publicity in the Twin Cities—and other cities across the country—by distributing hundreds of high-quality, large-format posters and newspapers. Additionally, local designers created their own innovative designs, such as the following poster:
Another form of circulation of common media across the country was a zine with an illustrated history of May Day. During the meet-up at the beginning of the day, I found this zine to be a useful means for meeting new people and sparking conversations. Talking about this history made us feel connected with the tradition of struggle for immigrants’ and workers’ rights, such as the 8-hour workday, that most people take for granted, and seeing that nothing will be gained—and much could be lost—without continued militant struggle.
The rest of the day gave us many lessons in struggle. Occupy Homes MN, a group who organize to defend community members from foreclosure and eviction, led a march of 300 people dancing joyously along with a brass band and a mobile sound bike through the streets of downtown to confront the headquarters of US Bank.
The police were out in full-force. Although they put on a show of intimidation, they were relatively friendly to the demonstrators and there were no instances of physical confrontation.
After the Occupy Homes action, the occupiers dance-marched back to the park and engaged in an action with the MN Immigrant Freedom Network: fanning out in groups to talk with people on the street about immigrants’ rights and asking them to sign a petition against Secure Communities—“a notorious Homeland Security program that promotes the sharing of information between local and federal law enforcement authorities about the legal status of immigrants arrested by local police” —and for The Dream Act, which “would allow young undocumented people who arrived in the U.S. at a young age to pursue their higher education and provide a path to citizenship”.
The next major action was a march for Immigrants and Workers rights organized by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee with around 700 people.
The march included an anti-capitalist bloc with a major contingent from the IWW, featuring a “Wobmobile” sound truck that enabled a mobile dance party.
The final major action of the day was an IWW Food and Retail Workers United march that, not only continued the fun of the mobile dance party, but also incorporated an outreach/organizing component to strengthen and expand their ongoing campaigns (such as the Jimmy John’s Workers Union and the Starbucks Workers Union). As the march progressed slowly along “Eat Street,” a street with many restaurants, an IWW ‘street team’ went into the shops to give workers fliers about the union and to talk with workers who were lured outside by the music and chants (such as “We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!”). It was a fitting action to honor the history of May Day with celebratory, movement-building resistance.