May Day 2018 and the Road Ahead: An Analysis

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Over the last three years, May Day actions have been building. In many ways, 2018 was a test to see if the anarchist and wider autonomous movement could keep the momentum building in the face of growing State repression, exemplified by everything from the J20 arrests, to Charlottesville grand juries, and the ever ready potential violence from the far-Right.

But this May Day, instead of far-Right MAGA trolls mobilizing in every city, we saw moreover an increased police presence against anything that might go off the script from boring, predictable, and permitted actions. What follows is a critical analysis of May Day, as well as some questions on what it would mean to move forward in the present terrain.

Ghosts of May Days Past

In 2016, a prison strike in Texas gave context to May Day for many across the US, with lots of people taking action in solidarity with the strike. In 2017, the energy set off by the election of Donald Trump as well as the growth of antifascist resistance helped propel many into the streets. In some cities, we saw clashes with the far-Right, which attempted to show up and demonstrate against May Day, such as in LA and in New York. While the turn outs on the side of the far-Right was small, the fact that they were willing to come out was a sign of what lay in store over the next few months.

This year, the far-Right seemed even more isolated. In LA, only a handful of United National Patriot Front members flew American flags and were separated from a hundreds strong May Day rally. In New York, only a few trolls showed their faces and were quickly shut down. Seattle saw the largest mobilization, with about 75 Proud Boys, neo-Nazis, and militia members rallying along side Joey Gibson who was open carrying, and marched around the city largely unopposed. The group rented a bus in order to bring people into the city, however antifascists used the opportunity to flyer in the communities of various Proud Boys who came to Seattle and also did patrols to take down all of their racist and anti-immigrant flyers.

While still able to pull numbers when they amassed their forces in one area, the last strand of unity on the far-Right: that of wanting to attack us, was now getting diminishing returns.

Moreover, This year many cities decided to switch things up, as calls were made for “decentralized May Day” actions across the Pacific Northwest, Philadelphia, and in North Carolina. Other regions, like in the bay area, decided to hold large conferences, such as the Revolutionary Organizing Against Racism Conference in Oakland and San Francisco. But generally across the board, May Day saw continued energy, creativity, militancy, and action across a broad area, with anarchists, anti-authoritarians, and autonomists holding a variety of events and actions in a variety of local contexts.

Questions Raised

May Day also presents key questions. In many cities, anarchist and anti-authoritarian groups were simply part of larger Leftist or progressive events. In many contexts, we can see how this makes sense, such as in smaller towns, or a desire to work with groups in our communities we want to keep a good relationship with. But we must ask ourselves what we get out of these rallies and marches and what we are accomplishing by participating in them. Are we simply waving red and black flags as just another contingent, or are we intervening in such a way that we are attempting to draw other people towards a new form of politics? Do we even have a means to do so? Tables, flyers, banners, etc? Also, are we there simply to draw more members into our organizations, or build actual power from below? Are we interacting with everyday people that we live next to, work with, and go to school with, or simply those that inhabit protest subcultures?

This is why it was great to see groups holding their own events, festivals, and community get-togethers, even if they were at times small. While some may have downplayed the picnics and BBQs that some groups organized, if we aren’t creating new spaces for new people to come in and get involved, then how do we expect to grow? Moreover, if we have the capacity to organize our own events, then by all means we should.

Another reality that many dealt with this year was increased police repression. In the Pacific Northwest, people counter-acted this by calling for decentralized actions, and even holding a militant May Day march on May 2nd in Olympia. While this may have successfully stopped the police from carrying out mass arrests, it also stopped large numbers from amassing. On the other hand, such experimentations are much needed and shows that we don’t have to pigeonhole ourselves all of the time. In the end, what is going to allow us to build power and capacity is not one off days of action and celebrations of course, but sustained cultures of resistance, infrastructure, and autonomy from dominant the system.

The Road Ahead

Going forward, we have several tasks before us over the next year. The first is being able to survive increased State repression and also learning to maneuver in a terrain of increased police militarization. From J20 to Charlottesville, the task ahead is not just one of support and raising money, but also waging political struggle during these trials that make them political victories. Those who stood up to Trump and fought neo-Nazis are seen in the eyes of a growing number of people as heroes, and thus we must also continue to organize and educate people as to the reasons why this government organizes itself to put us behind bars.

At the same time, the midterms are just around the corner, and while it remains unclear as to how much people will be sucked into the spectacle of democracy, at the same time, we are now almost two years into Trump’s reign. The initial push which drew many into our ranks in late 2016 may now be dying down, and some of the crews and groups which first formed may be folding.

In some ways this is ironic, because the amount of struggles and revolt happening now is larger than ever, as is the growing hatred and distrust of the Democratic Party in the eyes of most poor and working people. Our movement is needed.

To be plain, we need to increase both our regional organizational capacities of our movement as well as bring new people in. Recent large antifascist mobilizations show what we can do when we organize, but even in regards to just bread and butter struggles, we need to become much more than isolated small crews.

Often, people in a given state and region are not in contact with each other. We have to start changing that; we have to start building networks between groups, cities, and crews. That way, when it’s time to mobilize around a common issue or threat, we are calling on friends and not reaching out for the first time. A step in that direction might look like something as simple as inviting people to come to an event, or planning to hold a BBQ at a park in the middle of the State.

But moreover, we need to switch from simply responding to crises and disasters, and instead moving to meet the daily disasters of industrial capitalism with grassroots dual power. In other words: creating a political crisis out of being able to answer the existing ones with action.

Again, what the large grassroots antifascist mobilizations led by anarchists such as in Michigan showed is that when we organize regionally and work together, great things can happen, we just fundamentally have to take these lessons and apply them to the crisis in Flint, Michigan, the crisis in Puerto Rico, in Native communities, and so on. We need to find ways to continue to organize with people on a mass scale, such as the developing rent strikes, solidarity tenant campaigns, and pipeline fights have done.

We also need to think about what it means to intervene in a social situation where tens of thousands of teachers are on wildcat strike, hundreds are blocking freeways, and whole communities are fighting pipelines. What does it mean to offer material solidarity? What does it mean to go on the offensive? How do we begin to really build autonomy and pull away from the State and capital and create something worth defending?

But in order to get there, we need groups in regional areas to come together, meet, and discuss their abilities to work together and build capacity. Hopefully May Day aids in this direction, as across the US and beyond people came together, made, places, and took action.

What follows is a May Day highlight real of communiques, photos, tweets, and more.

Puerto Rico:

San Juan, PR:

  • General strike called and massive riots take place across San Juan. Black bloc formed. From CrimethInc:

San Juan, Puerto Rico saw a bona fide general strike for May Day—responding most immediately to the manifestation of neo-liberal capitalism as laid out in an austerity-plan released at the beginning of April. The budget plan requires the closure of hundreds of schools and could include cuts to pensions and other benefits. All the while, the island is STILL recovering from Hurricane Maria. Just under two weeks ago electricity went out once again on the ENTIRE island.

Pacific Northwest:

Seattle:

  • Banners dropped across the city for May Day.
  • On the morning of May 1st, in anticipation of a large group of Proud Boys coming up to harass people throughout the city, antifascists conducted a coordinated flyering campaign of various neighborhoods in the greater Washington area. In total, 6 different flyers were distributed. The report on Puget Sound Anarchists reads:

The morning of May 1st, a few crews got together to pay a visit to the neighborhoods some of the local Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer members.

For those who don’t know, the proud boys are an alt-right organization that espouses “western chauvinist”, racist, misogynistic, and white supremacist views. They are notorious for starting street fights and give each other awards for it. Locally, Proud Boys work with Patriot Prayer, an alt-right nationalist group based out of Vancouver, Washington. Both Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys are notorious for giving space for outright white supremacists and self described fascists and neo-nazis to organize publicly. These groups welcomed in people like the fascist Jeremy Christian who went on to stab three people, two of whom died, on a MAX train in Portland, Oregon.

These particular people we visited have been particularly violent and dangerous, not to mention particularly welcoming to outright fascists and neo-nazis. Or, as in the case of Jacob Andrew Farmer and Robert Zerfing, are outright fascists and make no effort to hide it. Our crews took to their neighborhoods, informational fliers in hand, to inform their neighbors about who these people are, what they’ve been up to, and where they live. We feel people should know if their neighbor is a white supremacist or fascist sympathizer. We think that confronting fascists in the streets is vital but we also think that a diversity of tactics are important and we found that outing them to their neighbors was easy and hopefully effective. Feel free to replicate and repeat!

Our particular autonomous decentralized May Day started precisely around 1am. Inspired the by the spirit of Bash Back! we took to Capitol Hill to hunt for bigots and street harrassers cause we are tired of feeling unsafe in the streets and decided to make Capitol Hill unsafe for those toxic to us women, femmes, transfolk, and queers.

  • Early in the morning of May Day, anarchists and antifascists made short work of fascist and far-Right posters put up in the Central District, many with an anti-immigrant message. A report posted to Puget Sound Anarchists wrote:

Early May Day morning in Seattle’s Central District revealed that the streets and light poles that line Judkins Park had been plastered with countless pieces of reactionary and racist far-right propaganda. This mostly consisted of racist posters targeting immigrants, but there were also some anti-antifa posters, dog-whistling for other nazis and racists. This is significant because Judkins Park is host to one of the largest annual protests in Seattle every May Day, lead by a coalition of immigrants’ rights groups. It is clear that this was a targeted campaign of intimidation and insult to those who would be showing up later in the day to join the thousands in the streets.

We took a morning stroll and removed all of the above mentioned garbage well before anyone began to gather at Judkins Park. While we differ politically from the main groups that organize this march, we found it necessary to do what we could to prevent attempts at fascistic intimidation. Countering a racist attack on primarily Mexican and Central American immigrants and the fight for basic dignity for those living in the U.S.A. without documentation is more important than our critique of the march organizers publicly negative comments about anarchists in the past.

As has been demonstrated in the last couple of years, the Central District has been a breeding ground for fascist propaganda and as anarchists we will continue to quash it time and time again.

  • Anarchists put up stickers and tags along the U-District and sabotaged gentrifying infrastructure. From the communique on Puget Sound Anarchists:

Make May Day everyday. Build nodes. Plant the seeds of insurgent commune against the state and capital. Find each other. Build our infrastructure. Break their infrastructure. Perpetuate ethical social ruptures. Shatter the lie of social peace.

  • During the mass immigrant rights march, which has taken place in Seattle for years, anarchists participated as a bloc, carrying flags, and chanting slogans.
  • Unrelated to the immigrant march, someone threw a rock at the Amazon building and was quickly arrested.
  • A block party to resist the juvenile hall was held.

Olympia:

In the early hours of May 1st, we heeded the call for a decentralized May Day and sneaked up to a Wells Fargo bank, vandalizing the building with the words “HAPPY MAY DAY,” jamming the ATM with glue and smashing out its windows. In doing so, we show our support and solidarity with May Day actions across the globe, and to remind ourselves how easy it is to attack. Banks are responsible for putting families on the streets, for protecting the gems of the ruling class and for funding companies which destroy our world.

We also glued the locks and vandalized several Real Estate businesses with the words “STOLEN LAND” and “PIGS PIGS PIGS” in solidarity with the Nisqually people and all indigenous struggles for autonomy.

Against the State and all its institutions!
Long Live La Zad!
Happy May Day!

  • May Day rally takes place in a park.
  • Around 7 PM, a group of about 30 people held a home demonstration outside of the Mayor’s house. Riot police arrived, but not arrests were made. Read the full report back on Puget Sound Anarchists here. Text from the flyer stated:

Mayor Cheryl Selby pays lip service to the houseless community, yet acted as a decision maker in defunding the InterFaith Works Warming Center in downtown Olympia. She has stated that “We strongly believe that Olympia must do its part in the fight against climate change,” but refused to take a public stance against the Port of Olympia’s shipping of fracking proppants. Selby is a sleazy politician and business owner who claims to care about members of her community, but the only real stance she has taken is her pro-business agenda. This is the dark underbelly of progressivism.

Cheryl Selby, as mayor of so-called Olympia, is supposed to represent a population of over 50,000 people. Our highly varying and individual opinions, needs, and desires cannot be represented.

The fate of our home should not be at the mercy of someone in power who is completely removed from the every day experiences of the rest of us. This is why we cannot accept any politician; because they inherently seek to control us, speak for us, and thus rob us of our autonomy.

This neighborhood exists on Nisqually/Squaxin land. Thirty-percent of houses in Olympia’s Capitol neighborhood are owned by lobbyists and corporations. This neighborhood is the home of the political class that has for centuries, since the genocidal reign of Isaac Stevens, continued to thrive off the subjugation of other people and the land.

  • On May 2nd, an autonomous march was organized and took place. From the text of a flyer that appeared on a report from Puget Sound Anarchists:

Olympia Needs A Makeover

Rapid gentrification is happening right before our eyes; with a new condo being approved what feels like every month, rent hikes and evictions, raids on houseless encampments, and the general displacement of the houseless community. All of this, paired with increased police patrols which serve no purpose but to harass the houseless, exploitive small businesses who are always eager to call the pigs and “clean teams” who hurry to wash away any voices of dissent. The forces of order in the city are working at breakneck speed to sanitize everything and create the image of a pristine yuppie dystopia. This shiny veneer can’t hide the brutality and subjugation that makes it possible. The killing of Vaneesa Hopson by OPD and paramedics just months ago, and the police shooting of Andre and Bryson in 2015 are just two examples of the world they want. You want a spotless City to be enjoyed by an elite few… we’re going to take a dump on it!

This town is home to a beautiful amalgam of freaks and wonderful people, but it’s also fraught with a whole lot of bullshit. Since the first white settlers waged the Puget Sound war to steal this land from the Squaxin and Nisqually people, this area that we now call our home is a place of intense oppression and exploitation. But with it comes inspiring resistance and vibrant attempts to live contrary to the dictates of the rulers. Another world is possible.

Something has to change, and the secret is to really begin. 

Happy May Day

Tacoma:

  • Local IWW branch participates in larger May Day event.

Portland:

  • In Portland, tens of thousands awoke to news that 22 police cars had been vandalized with white paint over the course of the previous night. The news quickly went viral, and the media was quick to connect the action to May Day. The communique from Puget Sound Anarchists wrote:

Happy May Day to the Portland Police, we hate you!

We do appreciate how silly we get to make you look on the dawn of our holiday, though. We wanted to set the tone for May Day in Portland by hitting up some parked cruisers outside the piggies clubhouse with a few gallons of paint on the windshields and anywhere else we could. We don’t need to march down the street to attack the state.

Picnics are great for camaraderie, but we should still be taking away every bit of power from the capitalist state every chance we get.

  • Rally in park takes place. Burgerville Workers union address crowd, among many others.

Eugene:

  • Local anarchists organize small May Day gathering in park.

Spokane:

  • May Day march takes place.

Southwest:

San Francisco and Oakland:

  • Revolutionary Organizing Against Racism conference takes place over two days attracting hundreds of people.
  • Mass march takes place. Workers at ILWU do not report to work for a shift, honoring May Day.

Oxnard:

  • Colective Todo Poder al Pueblo held an all day conference and Really Really Free Market.

Los Angeles:

  • LA IWW holds social in park.

San Diego:

  • San Diego IWW holds film showing.
  • Antifascists drop banners.

Las Vegas:

  • May Day march takes place, despite rain.

Phoenix:

  • #RedForEd strike and actions continue.

Albuquerque, NM:

  • May Day celebration held in park.

Central:

Denver, CO:

  • John Brown Gun Club and others held a community May Day event, with free good and supplies.

Durango, CO:

  • Dirty hands collective organized a Really Really Free Market.

Missoula, MN:

  • Variety of actions took place. In an anonymous communique sent to It’s Going Down, it stated:

For May Day of 2018, Missoula workers did a few things that were notable.
The Missoula IWW General Membership Branch hosted a picnic in Greenough Park, where union songs were sang and good food was eaten. A 13′ x 15′ banner was dropped the night prior to May Day, on the pedestrian bridge over Reserve St. which read: “DOWN WITH WAGE LABOR, BOSSES AND CAPITALISM.” Unfortunately, it was taken down sometime before noon on May Day. Flyers were posted to various businesses downtown telling workers to take the day off and celebrate May Day.

  • Windows of Senator’s office broken out on May Day night.

Austin, TX:

  • The Autonomous Student Network kicked off a week of events.

Midwest:

Grand Rapids, MI:

In the occupied Anishinaabewaki land of Grand Rapids, Michigan, an unpermitted immigrants’ solidarity march drew over 1000 people, including many young children, and blocked traffic in the downtown area for three hours. Cops threatened arrest and tried to guide the march, but the whole march broke through their line and determined their own direction. It was joyous, festive, and comparatively rowdy for your average weekday in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Ann Arbor, MI:

  • Anarchist march and picnic.

Beloit, WI:

  • Banner drop in solidarity with teacher’s strike.

Chicago, IL:

  • Gathering held at the Haymarket Martyrs memorial and later anarchists participate in mass march.

Minneapolis, MN:

  • Banner drop in solidarity with resistance in Puerto Rico. Later anarchists bloc marches in large march.

Lower Michigan:

  • Redneck Revolt hosts a community BBQ.

Southeast

St. Martinville, LA:

  • Anti-pipeline blockaders continue to fight the Bayou Bridge pipeline and launch several actions to stop work.

Hellbender Autonomous Zone, Virginia/West Virginia:

  • May Day celebrated by continued tree occupations to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Knoxville, TN:

  • Banners dropped against ICE.

Washington DC:

  • Mass march. Strong IWW presence.

Durham, NC:

  • Series of autonomous and decentralized actions take place, including banner drops, wheatpastes, and action against Amazon at Whole Foods. March takes place later.

Tampa, FL:

  • Rowdy May Day march takes place.

Broward, FL:

  • May day rally.

Gainesville, FL:

  • Protests and demonstrations held outside of prisons.

Northeast:

Philadelphia, PA:

  • Wave of anti-gentrification vandalism and graffiti takes place. Communique posted on Philly Anti-Capitalist reads in part:

Happy May Day y’all. Since public marches aren’t quite our thing, we decided to head out into the night to cause some trouble as soon as the clock struck 12 am, May 1st. We wandered throughout the side streets of brewery town, giving plenty of those nice new Resnik developer buildings some much needed paint jobs, smashing windows is always a good time, but for this little adventure, we felt that it would cause just as much damage and cost as much money to fix if we painted their windows a nice sleek shade of black. We also took the time to sabotage their locks in a bunch of fun, easy to reproduce ways. On the way, we also stumbled across the vehicle of a yuppie “clean energy” company. We figured this would look much better with some big black streaks on it so we gave it a sweet paint job (free of charge of course). Hope that’s a friendly reminder that we don’t give a fuck about your capitalist version of sustainable future and more importantly, stay the fuck outta our hoods with your ugly gentrified houses.

We went on this little adventure with the memories of the anarchists slain both in the labor struggles in Haymarket square, and for those murdered in the struggle against domination, the memory of their attacks have warmed our hearts and fueled our mischievous deeds. We also took these actions in memory of David Jones who was murdered by the terrorist pig Ryan Pownell, and in solidarity with those struggling against Temple’s new stadium, and our comrades arrested on May Day last year.

We decided to glue the locks of two gentrifying reality offices in philly. we got one, but at our second target there was a ucd cop posted up, so instead we went and glued the locks of the ucd police headquarters.

  • Banners dropped in memory of Haymarket Martyrs.

  • Anti-work banner dropped from freeway.

  • “Happy May Day” Banner dropped from freeway.

Over the past two months in gentrifying neighborhoods in Philly, security cameras have gone flying into construction sites, been crushed under car tires, and thrown into gutters, never to be recovered. This included cameras on one particular house in Point Breeze that its occupants had tried to use to incriminate someone for an exciting crime last year. Watch out snitches!

We estimate that we took down around 20 regular security cameras and 20 doorbell cameras made by Ring, a company that Amazon recently bought in order to expand their hellish corporate hold on our dreams and purchasing habits into the delightful realm of home security and DIY policing.

Along the way, we learned that the Ring cameras come in different sizes & colors and to look for a blue ring around the doorbell button. We also learned that Amazon has a guarantee to replace stolen or broken Ring cameras for free, so stealing them costs the corporation directly, at a rate of $99-249 per camera depending on the model.

We noticed that tooling around the neighborhood looking for cameras came in really handy down the line when planning other actions, since it made us already familiar with which routes would be safest, and enhanced our ability to recognize surveillance on the spur of the moment.

  • May Day rally organized by IWW.

  • Anti-Amazon banner and flyers dropped at Whole Foods. Communique on Philly Anti-Capitalist reads in part:

This banner was dropped during the afternoon on May Day at the Whole Foods on South St. As the banner outstretched, we also dropped around 500 of these fliers to let those below know that the unification of Whole Foods and Amazon is just another insidious step in Amazon’s attempt to monopolize and control our lives entirely.

Ithaca, NY:

  • Anarchist hold May Day picnic with food in a park. Write, “The Ithaca Police are asking us to leave on behalf of the Elmira Savings Bank. Ironically they call themselves “The People’s Bank”. Still waiting to see if they want to press charges.” Police later left without incident.

Brooklyn, NY:

  • Banner dropped.

Long Island, NY:

  • May Day rally.

New York City, NY:

  • Anarchist bloc marched and rallied in May Day march. Later held a noise demo outside of the local jail.

  • Occupation of New School kicks off in solidarity with cafeteria workers fighting for a contract.

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