May Day protest reflected nationwide

Travis Reed

Throughout the world and close to home Monday, protesters demanding better wages and a fairer slice of the global pie for local workers clashed with police.
In London, protesters trashed a McDonald’s restaurant and pelted police with rocks and bricks before the Bobbies pressed them into Trafalgar Square.
In Manila, Philippines, police used a fire hose to ward of protesters who hoped to storm the Malacanang presidential palace, where President Joseph Estrada has come under fire for siding with employers in labor disputes.
The scene was similar in Minneapolis, where nearly 600 people, including dozens of University students, met downtown and marched to Loring Park.
The activists were flanked by an army of 120 state, county and city law enforcement officials clad in riot gear, who arrested 24 people for disorderly conduct along the way.
A global day
May Day, originally a pagan holiday, has evolved into an international labor day. In the United States, May Day began on May 1, 1886, as a labor protest for an eight-hour workday.
The May Day celebration has become the latest battleground for activists in the evolving fight against globalization.
Among other things, activists call for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to erase Third World debt, and criticize the increasingly global economy for cultural genocide, pollution and the decline of workers’ rights.
In Seattle five months ago, protesters clashed with police and disrupted a meeting of the World Trade Organization.
In Washington two weeks ago, thousands gathered in an attempt to replicate the Seattle protesters’ success at the annual IMF/World Bank meeting.
In Monday’s demonstration, animal-rights activists joined forces with environmental and labor groups. The activists were joined by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, which recently scored a victory in bargaining for seven former Holiday Inn Express workers’ right to remain in the country. The workers were reportedly turned in to Immigration and Naturalization Services because they tried to unionize in October.
“I’d like to see a lot more situations where we work with progressive labor unions, like here,” said Robert Wood, a member of the University’s Activist Student Collective.
A local movement
Equipped with signs and a variety of anti-corporate chants, about 40 University students met on campus and marched across the Washington Avenue Bridge and through the Carlson School of Management on their way downtown to the demonstration.
Jon Collins, a member of the Activist Student Collective, said Carlson School students were positive about the protest, in spite of the fact that their school was being targeted.
The marchers in Minneapolis came forth to protest a wide variety of perceived injustices, from the concentration of the agriculture industry to U.S. companies profiting from child and sweatshop labor.
Local activist Antoine Martinneau lent his voice against Alliant Tech Systems Inc., an Edina-based company that is visited on a regular basis by demonstrators protesting the company’s weapons manufacturing.
Sarah Standefer, a member of Women Against Military Madness, has protested global capitalism for a long time. She said she was very encouraged by Monday’s turnout and the connections being made by activists throughout the country.
“I think what’s happening is wonderful … this movement among kids to address globalization. These kids get it,” she said.
As Standefer and the crowd moved toward Loring Park, chanting slogans such as “Who’s streets? Our streets!” small groups of police scurried ahead to block off side streets along the marchers’ route.
At one point, several police ran down the sidewalk, grabbed a man with a camera and slammed him against a chain link fence. Other police quickly surrounded the man as protesters demanded: “Let him go!”
The police allowed WCCO television cameras to tape the incident up close and ask the arrestee questions, but prevented other media from interviewing the man. Like the police officers, many of the television news media were heckled and yelled at by the crowd.
When the marchers arrived at Loring Park, they turned around and confronted a line of police and began chanting and yelling at Minneapolis’ finest.
As the police finally backed away, a group of “radical cheerleaders” came out in the streets to dance and cheer:
“P.I.G.S. with the badge on their chest, they want to oppress the people with less. These cops are armed and dangerous, they’re the boys in blue, put your hands where they can see them, or they’ll shoot you.”
Police Chief Robert Olson said the large number of police in riot gear were necessary because “any issue where mobs are involved can turn very, very ugly, and we, as always, have to prepare for the worst.”
But as soon as the cheerleaders began their schtick, the police line moved back across the street and the standoff with the protesters continued until 3 p.m. Before the end of the rally, an unidentified activist calling himself “Protestron” in a robot suit voiced his thoughts on the police:
“I am the next generation of police, equipped with easy grip claws and easy destructo lasers. I’m here to control the leftist crowd.”
Travis Reed covers environment and transportation and welcomes comments at [email protected] Max Rust covers community and agriculture and welcomes comments at [email protected]