Yesterday, I joined hundreds of others in protest and we marched to the Federal Plaza from Union Park in Chicago for May Day. With chants, music, signs, noisemakers and raindrops, we let our presence be known. The birthplace of May Day was honored with several folks representing various community organizations, labor unions in solidarity with Occupy Chicago.
May Day commemorates the anniversary of May 1, 1886, when the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, the predecessor of the American Federation of Labor, began a movement for the eight-hour day. Chicago with its strong labor movement had the nation's largest demonstration on Saturday, May 1, 1886, when reportedly 80,000 workers marched up Michigan Avenue arm-in-arm carrying their union banners, according Illinois Labor History Society.
However, on May 4th in continued demonstration, a bomb was thrown into the crowd, killing four civilians, seven policemen and wounding many. This event later became known as the Haymarket Massacre.
As we marched past where this horrific incident occurred we were greeted with military helicopters and cops on foot, on horses and on bikes as we took the streets of the West Loop to the Loop. Standing for ones’ rights can be dangerous, but the workplace should not be a dangerous place to be. I was honored to be amongst those who continue to fight for labor rights.
The action was a great reminder that we need to work at advancing the rights of working people, and that together as allies and advocates we can call for change. Support the work of IWJ today.
Toma Lynn Smith is IWJ's new Individual Outreach Coordinator and part of the development team. Toma participated in Chicago's May Day events with Arise Chicago, an IWJ affiliate, and other community organizations.