National

What is May Day? Here’s what you need to know about the celebrations — and protests

Protesters marched through downtown Phoenix last May. Immigrant and union groups are expected to rally in cities across the United States on Tuesday to mark May Day.
Protesters marched through downtown Phoenix last May. Immigrant and union groups are expected to rally in cities across the United States on Tuesday to mark May Day. Associated Press

May Day, an annual U.S. celebration and international holiday that’s spurred both rallies and riots, is expected to draw hundreds to the streets of cities and towns Tuesday to honor the working class and advocate for the rights of immigrant workers.

Rallies, festivals and even some counter-demonstrations are planned across the U.S., from Seattle to Miami to New York City. May Day, which is also known as International Workers Day, will be celebrated in other countries as their Labor Day, according to Time.

May Day began as a pagan holiday celebrating the beginning of summer, CNN reported. But its labor-oriented turn can be traced back to Chicago on May 1, 1886, when about 200,000 workers orchestrated a nationwide strike for an eight-hour workday, Time reported. As the protest continued, the event later called the Haymarket affair became fatal when a bomb was thrown into a crowd of people on May 4, killing at least four civilians and several police officers, Al Jazeera said.

A few years later, a coalition of European socialist and labor parties sought to honor the “Haymarket Martyrs,” according to History.com. The International Socialist Conference in 1889 declared that May 1 would be an international holiday for labor, Time said.

Now, it’s celebrated in more than 60 countries, and unofficially in the U.S., History.com said.

The demonstrations have since evolved to include immigration advocacy since 2006 protests against legislation that would have cracked down on immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, the Washington Post reported. Most recently, workers across the county last year took to the streets on May 1 to protest the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown, the Huffington Post reported. More pro-immigrant rallies are planned this year in multiple cities.

Counter-protesters reportedly plan to gather on Tuesday, too. A right-wing group called Washington State Patriot Response says it will rally that afternoon in Seattle, Patch reported. The Washington city stood out six years ago when dozens of rioters used poles, hammers and other objects to smash vehicles and the windows of some businesses, the Seattle Times reported. This year, hundreds are expected to gather in the city for a non-violent demonstration.

Several people were arrested last year at protests in Portland, Oregon, Seattle and New York, the Washington Post reported.

Barney Allis Plaza was the site of an International Workers' Day rally on Monday. After the rally, people marched to City Hall, where Kansas City Mayor Sly James proclaimed the city's support for International Workers' Day, also known as May Day.

  Comments