May Day, International Workers’ Day, saw over four thousand workers and young people in Seattle rallying and marching energetically, calling for the legalization of undocumented immigrant workers, and for the right of workers everywhere to unionize and live a dignified life. Kshama Sawant, a Socialist Alternative candidate for City Council, supports immediate, unconditional legalization and equal rights for all undocumented individuals. Our campaign was proud to participate in the peaceful march along with our brothers and sisters.
Predictably enough, the corporate-owned media focused almost exclusively on the small march of 200-300 young people, while the real power of Seattle’s working class lay in the thousands who marched earlier in the day, demanding the rights of immigrants and workers, and expressing their anger against the big banks that continue to shamelessly profit from the economic crisis.
Armed with intimidating riot gear and weapons, the police did everything they could to provoke the young radical protesters, pushing many of whom carried signs with anarchist symbols, and who are rightfully fed up with the injustices of capitalism, such as student debt, a lack of meaningful living-wage jobs, discrimination, and environmental destruction. In fact, the Seattle Police Department was gunning for the protesters well before May Day. Interim Seattle police chief Jim Pugel said a few weeks ago, “It is inevitable that we are going to have to use force. It is inevitable that police are going to have to detain people.”
Socialist Alternative and the Kshama Sawant campaign for City Council advocate building mass movements of working people and youth, which organize non-violent protests, student walkouts, workplace strikes, and occupations. We oppose vandalism and property destruction, especially of small businesses, which only plays into the hands of the corporate media, the police, and the ruling elite. But the primary culprit in last evening’s events are clearly the Seattle Police, who according to The Stranger newspaper, “liberally deployed” pepper spray, and threw flash bang grenades into the crowd like so many beads at Mardi Gras.”
Journalists were not spared from SPD attacks either. Ansel Herz of The Stranger reported just barely dodging a direct pepper spray hit himself. Erica C. Barnett of Publicola sent out the tweet, Got teargassed for taking a photo of cops beating up a girl at mayday protest. Full canister, right in the eyes.
Breaking windows of cars or small businesses is mistaken, alienating ordinary working people from a social justice movement, rather than drawing them into the struggle, said Sawant. We do, however, condemn in the strongest possible terms the brutal and unacceptable use of force by the SPD. Using the fig leaf of crowd control, the SPD relentlessly fired flash bang grenades and pepper spray, injuring journalists, and cornering and targeting defenseless individuals. The ink on the reports of the SPD’s shameless anti-homeless video is hardly dry. And now this behavior by the city’s police last evening once again reminds us why we need to build a determined mass movement of ordinary working people in this city, to hold the police accountable, and to create a truly democratic and equal society, Sawant added.