organization Second International declared May 1 to be International Workers' Day to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket affair.
The Haymarket affair was an 1886 incident in Chicago in which, during a factory workers' strike for an eight-hour workday, an unidentified person bombed police and police responded by killing four demonstrators. The holiday coincided with May Day, an old pagan spring festival still secularly celebrated in several countries, and thus uses the names International Workers Day and May Day interchangeably.
Workers’ solidarity would be more important than ever on May 1, 2017, Sawant, a self-identified socialist, said.
“This is the year of Donald Trump in the White House,” Sawant said, adding that his administration meant a greater threat to immigrant populations, labor’s right to organize, equal pay for women, and LGBTQ rights.
Sawant went on to describe the power of labor strikes to affect policy.
“The history of strike action is absolutely brilliant and it illustrates that it really is the most powerful tool the working class has in our arsenal,” she said. “It hits the billionaire class where it hurts: their wallets.”
Councilmember Tim Burgess countered that he did not see a day of conscience as a strike action, and that he hoped city employees would not strike.
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said she supported the potential for May Day organization to advance progressive causes, but cautioned against violence.
“We have seen May Day turn into an anarchist field day the last number of years, and that really belies what we’ve tried to accomplish here,” Bagshaw said.
In Seattle, May Day has been a day of mostly peaceful protest since the early 20th Century. Since 2012, May Day has seen more open conflict between self-identified anarchist and anti-capitalist demonstrators and police, resulting in harm to people, destruction of property, and a greater militarized police presence at protests.
Seattle PD reported two officers were injured by demonstrators during the 2016 May Day protest. At least four people were arrested.