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May 2, 20

May Day Shows Growing Power of Strikes As Trump Pushes for Return to Work

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Historically, May Day 2020 may come to be seen as a turning point: both in the growth of autonomous and grassroots anti-capitalist responses to the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic, and for the widespread cross-pollination happening between various social movements.

May Day saw tens of thousands take part in mass car caravans, which rallied outside of jails, prisons and detention facilities to demand the release of inmates; in solidarity with striking workers at Amazon, Whole Foods, Instacart, Target, FedEx, and Shipt who had called for strikes; as well as to demand the cancellation of rent. This wide range of activity helps highlight a few key aspects:

  • The degree in which autonomous movements and struggles have impacted and brought into the streets (cars?) the wider proletariat. This is in terms of both the growing capacity of organizing networks such as the Autonomous Tenants Union Network and groups like Tenants and Neighborhood Councils in the bay area, which have helped to build tenant councils throughout the region. In short, what were seen as calls from the “fringe” just months ago are now being picked up as bread and butter rallying cries by masses of people.
  • The generalization of tactics has also been apparent, such as the growth of noise demonstrations and car caravans, which have grown far beyond anarchist and abolitionist circles.
  • People are continuing to push in terms of tactics. This includes experiments with what is possible regarding the car caravans, as well as the reclamation of housing. On May 1st, we saw both the occupation of one vacant home in San Francisco and a hotel room in Los Angeles. These actions were carried out by houseless comrades and represent the next horizon of the struggle: the expropriation of housing stock.

In terms of work strikes, while the actual size of visible worker actions such as rallies and protests was small (it remains to be seen how many workers simply did not report to work or called out sick), the coming together of both gig workers and employees at retail giants like Amazon and Whole Foods is historic. The fact that these movements and evolving groups are self-organized is even more important – for it represents, just as the West Virginia teacher’s strike did, that such activity is coming from below; not above.

Next, it appears that even more thousands of people have joined the rent strike. As we speak in New York, entire buildings with hundreds of tenants have openly declared themselves on strike and have dropped banners signaling their refusal to pay. While it remains to be seen the extent of the how far the rent strike has spread since April 1st, its clear that the strike has reached a critical stage where is it growing rapidly.

But many critical questions remain: how will we respond to the continued mobilization of the far-Right? How will our struggles and movements respond to the “re-opening” of the economy while the COVID-19 pandemic and coronavirus related deaths continues to skyrocket?

As one report wrote:

Friday, May 1 marked a new stage in the social crime being perpetrated against the American people, as President Trump allowed federal guidelines recommending “sheltering in place” during the coronavirus pandemic to expire. Dozens of state governments, with Washington’s blessing, have lifted lockdown orders, allowing stores, restaurants and even movie theaters to reopen, and ordering workers to go back to their jobs on pain of having their unemployment benefits cut off.

The Center for Disease Research and Policy in Minnesota projected Thursday that COVID-19 would likely spread in a series of outbreaks over the next year, until 60 to 70 percent of the population is infected. This would drive the death toll into the millions.

For many workers at direct risk of contracting the virus – this move will be a death sentence:

The meatpacking industry provides some of the most horrific indications of what is to come as millions of workers now on layoff are forced back to work under threat of losing unemployment compensation and the ability to pay rent and feed their families.

At a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse in Wallula, Washington, the largest in that state, 15 percent of workers tested positive for coronavirus after one died. At another Tyson plant in Logansport, Indiana, the virus has infected 890 of 2,200 workers.

But on Monday, Trump ordered meatpacking plants that had closed to be reopened, while suggesting that the employers needed “liability protections” against likely claims by workers infected on the job. One columnist observed acidly, “If you work in a meatpacking plant, by order of President Trump, you are officially considered less essential than the steak you’re cutting up.”

Backed by fellow billionaires along with grassroots neo-fascist and pro-Trump forces on the street which have been mobilizing at State capitols to demand that the economy be re-opened, Trump and much of the elites continue to argue that the lives of millions of everyday people are expendable. Across the world, the exploited and excluded will have to continue to decide if they will accept the fate as meat for the grinder of capitalist civilization, or continue to organize and push back.

What follows is a roundup of May Day actions across the so-called United States. Please send us report backs to info [at] itsgoingdown [dot] org.

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Y’all, the BX is lit 🔥 via @takebackthebronx, Banner reads: “Together we strike!” We won’t pay the rent!” || #rentstrike #cancelrent #decolonizethisplace

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Pacific Northwest

  • Portland, OR: Banner drops and rent strike graffiti spread across city. Car caravan rallies around Multco Detention Center to demand release of inmates. Various mutual-aid project distribute free food and masks throughout the city.

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#MayDayStrike billboard alteration in North Portland! #rentstrike #MayDay2020 #GeneralStrike #rentstrike2020

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Banner drop in the central eastside, mayday is everyday! Happy holidays comrades. #mayday #MayDay2020 #rentstrike #generalstrike #generalstrike2020

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  • Tacoma, WA: Car caravan and anti-ICE noise demo held outside of the Northwest Detention Center.

  • Olympia, WA: Car caravan drives through Olympia, promoting rent strike, dropping banners.

 

Southwest

  • San Francisco, CA: Rent strike car caravan ends in housing occupation in the Castro District. Two houseless women are evicted by police wearing “Blue Lives Matter” masks. As 48 Hills reported:

Two unhoused women took over a vacant building in the Castro today, sparking a massive police response, at least one arrest – and renewed attention to the large number of vacant properties in a city that has thousands of people living on the streets in a public-health crisis.

Couper Orona, a disabled firefighter who is known all over the city as a street medic who helps homeless people, and Jess Gonzalez, who was evicted because she wouldn’t give up her service dog, moved into 4555 19thStreet around 11am.

Police cleared the streets of protesters (and the media) before the two women left the house. There was one arrest of a supporter who, according to a video, was thrown to the ground by the cops.

  • Oakland, CA: Rent strike contingent part of larger May Day caravan takes to the streets after rallying at the Port of Oakland, where members of the ILWU had shut down work for the day.

  • Santa Cruz, CA: Strike at UCSC and car caravan organized in memory of bus driver who passed away from COVID-19. Banner hung up at jail.

  • Los Angeles, CA: Rent strike rally and car caravan organized. Rent strike protest held outside of Mayor’s home.

  • Santa Ana, CA: May Day caravan rallies around the Central Jails complex. From a report on SoCal IWOC:

On May 1st, a gang of people took to the streets and honked in solidarity with incarcerated workers locked up at the Central Jails Complex in Santa Ana. Many were from different revolutionary organizations across Orange County, others were locals committed to direct action. We came from all walks of life. In attendance were radical students, prison agitators, underground scholars, mutual aid organizers, friends of incarcerated people, and many more comrades linked to the struggle. What brought us together was our shared vision against the jail. With more than 15 cars – all wrapped with righteous propaganda – we encircled the complex dozens of times. SoCal IWOC’s cars had slogans in Spanish, for the raza. From the sidewalk one racist cop barked, “I don’t speak Spanish!” We shot back “Well, sucks for you, asshole!”

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On May 1st, a gang of people took to the streets and honked in solidarity with incarcerated workers locked up at the Central Jails Complex in Santa Ana. Many were from different revolutionary organizations across Orange County, others were locals committed to direct action. We came from all walks of life. In attendance were radical students, prison agitators, underground scholars, mutual aid organizers, friends of incarcerated people, and many more comrades linked to the struggle. What brought us together was our shared vision against the jail. With more than 15 cars – all wrapped with righteous propaganda – we encircled the complex dozens of times. SoCal IWOC's cars had slogans in Spanish, for the raza. From the sidewalk one racist cop barked "I don't speak Spanish!" We shot back "Well, sucks for you, asshole!" Our signs were not made for them to begin with. Spanish-speaking or not, the police state will never understand our message. As the car action proceeded, the jailer pigs just stood there and looked on at the caravan. They had nothing on us. All the while, we received props from the people. An applause from a carnal just released, a sister giving us a heads up on plain clothes cops, a clenched fist from a prima walking with head held high, honks and shouts of approval from nearby drivers, even a trucker, who put his air horn to good use. These are but a few acts of dissent we observed on the streets. We would like to dedicate this to our loved ones still trapped in the lion's den. The honks were for you, for everybody still on the inside. #FREETHEMALL

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Our signs were not made for them to begin with. Spanish-speaking or not, the police state will never understand our message. As the car action proceeded, the jailer pigs just stood there and looked on at the caravan. They had nothing on us. All the while, we received props from the people. An applause from a carnal just released, a sister giving us a heads up on plain clothes cops, a clenched fist from a prima walking with head held high, honks and shouts of approval from nearby drivers, even a trucker, who put his air horn to good use. These are but a few acts of dissent we observed on the streets. We would like to dedicate this to our loved ones still trapped in the lion’s den. The honks were for you, for everybody still on the inside.

  • Los Angeles, CA: People occupy hotel room to demand free housing for thousands of houseless residents.

  • Tucson, AZ: May day rent strike car caravan organized.
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Yesterday was great. Thanks @tucsonrentstrike #lifeovertheeconomy #cancelrent #mayday2020 #tucson

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Central

  • Missoula, MT: Rent strike banner drop.
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🎶 "life is a highway, we won't pay rent, all night long" 🎶

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  • Austin, TX: May Day rent strike car caravan. Police made multiple arrests. Donate to fundraiser here.

Midwest

  • Chicago, IL: Rent strike rally reads demands of tenants; holds banners and announces rent strike. Followed by a march throughout the neighborhood.

  • Carbondale, IL: Rent strike caravan.

  • Rockford, IL: May Day car caravan circles Winnebago County Jail.

  • Minneapolis, MN: Autonomous caravan breaks away from larger procession to rally outside of youth jail and stores on strike, such as Whole Foods. What follows is the text from a statement read at the autonomous caravan:

In response to the call from wearetheshutdown.org, we felt that a breakaway from the Cancel Rent demo (the momentum of which is also deeply necessary) allowed us to draw connections between workers striking on the job, and those striking against rent and mortgage payments. We are all choosing to prioritize human life over the economy.

We were an autonomous, rowdy, and joyful carvan of both cars & bikes. We went directly to workplaces, instead of asking politicians for empathy & action. We stood in solidarity with “essential workers,” who are the collateral damage sanctioned by lawmakers when choosing to “re-open the economy.” We don’t trust the state to decide what is necessary or safe in the context of this pandemic, or ever.

We can only rely on each other, and we decide what care looks like. The mutual aid projects and autonomous webs of support we are building will get us through this crisis. We are opening new worlds, not the economy.

Southeast

  • Atlanta, GA: May Day caravan of hundreds rides out to support the 5 Demands and the rent strike. Fills up Target parking lot to create a “picket” in solidarity.

  • Washington DC: IWW picket at Whole Foods in solidarity with May Day strike. From DC IWW:

Our branch stood in solidarity with Whole Food workers who are fighting for hazard pay and safer working conditions. The Whole Foods behind our picket line has 6 known cases of workers sick with COVID-19. While Whole Food workers are sick and dying Jeff Bezos is making more money than he’s ever made. We say enough to the exploitation of workers. Support Whole Worker and workers organizing and striking everywhere in this pandemic!

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May 1st is International Worker’s Day. Our branch stood in solidarity with Whole Food workers who are fighting for hazard pay and safer working conditions. The Whole Foods behind our picket line has 6 known cases of workers sick with COVID-19. While Whole Food workers are sick and dying Jeff Bezos is making more money than he’s ever made. We say enough to the exploitation of workers. Support Whole Worker and workers organizing and striking everywhere in this pandemic! • Love & Solidarity to workers around the world on May Day! 🖤 • #iww #wholefoods #wholeworker #wobblies #picket #mayday #solidarity #fuckjeffbezos #abolishbillionaires

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  • Charlottesville, VA: Robert E Lee statue vandalized.

  • Alexandria, VA: Car caravan in support of rent strike at the Southern Towers.

  • Richmond, VA: May Day caravan rallies around Richmond City jail then takes over parking lot at Whole Foods in solidarity with the strike.

  • New Orleans, LA: May day car caravan.

  • Durham, NC: May Day car caravan went through several neighborhoods and surrounded the jail, and was the fifth demo against either rent or prisons in the last two weeks.

  • Pompano Beach, FL: May Day car caravan outside of a ICE detention facility owned by Geo Group.

Northeast

  • Annapolis, MD: May Day car caravan around the Governor’s mansion to promote the 5 Demands.
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!HONK @ HOGAN! Today we ran circles and honked @govlarryhogan house in Maryland to demand: (1) free testing and healthcare, (2) guaranteed hazard pay and unemployment expansion, (3) the cancellation of rent, utilities, and debt, (4) release of prisoners, and (5) housing for all. @fivedemandsglobal After 30 minutes, State Circle was shut down by capitol police by the request of Hogan’s security team. Please DM us with your emails if you are interested in future demos and would like to be added to our DIRECT ACTION email list! 🏳️ #rentstrike #cancelrent #rentstrikedmv #carestrike #emptytheshelters #rentfreeze #covid #maryland #md #annapolis #noworknomoney #norent #noevictions #novacancies #housingisahumanright

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  • Pittsburgh, PA: May Day Cancel Rent caravan.

  • Philadelphia, PA: Community action to prevent eviction.

  • NYC: Banner drop on Brooklyn Bridge.

  • NYC: Banners dropped at buildings announcing rent strike.

  • Bronx, NYC: Mass May Day caravan.

  • Brooklyn, NY: Noise demo outside of jail.

  • Queens, NY: Buildings go out on rent strike.

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It’s Going Down is a digital community center from anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. Our mission is to provide a resilient platform to publicize and promote revolutionary theory and action.

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