A World on Fire (Literally): May Day 2017

Since the mid-nineteenth century, May 1st has long been regarded as the unofficial international holiday known as May Day or International Workers’ Day. On Monday May 1st, 2017 protesters and demonstrators all over the globe took to the streets of the world’s major cities to combat issues such as class warfare, gender inequality, racism, fascism and totalitarian government practices.

The American capital of Washington, D.C. saw a massive May Day turnout as protesters took aim at President Donald Trump’s efforts to dismantle DACA and DAPA. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) were two major legislative programs enacted by former U.S. President Barack Obama. These programs allow undocumented children and their parents permits to continue studying and working in the United States without the fear of deportation. The only condition is that these permits have to be validated and renewed on a yearly basis. Since taking office, the Trump Administration has been blocking DACA/DAPA protections and working to deport millions of the program’s beneficiaries. May Day demonstrators blocked all the streets near Capitol Hill and demanded better immigration reform.

In Portland, Oregon a demonstration against American President Donald Trump’s efforts to eliminate federally-subsidized healthcare resulted in a riot. Shops and private buildings all across downtown Portland were vandalized and a few protesters even set some structures on fire. The Portland Police Department made 25 arrests on May 1st with charges against the 25 subjects ranging from disorderly conduct to arson.

May Day Portland 2017
May Day demonstrators set several fires on the streets of downtown Portland in a riot that ended with 25 arrests but no fatalities.

In Chicago, thousands of protesters took aim at the Trump administration with vilifying effigies of President Trump and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt. Both Trump and Pruitt have been the target of global outrage and criticism for their denial of climate change and promises to revitalize industries such as the coal mining industry. The world’s leading climate change researchers are against returning to a means of energy production as outdated and environmentally-destructive as mining for coal.

May Day Chicago 2017
May Day demonstrators in Chicago strike a paper mache caricature of President Donald Trump on May 1, 2017.

In Caracas, millions of protesters took the city’s streets as part of the ongoing unrest that has been taking place in Venezuela for months now. Throughout late 2016 up until now, Venezuelans have been protesting President Nicolas Maduro for actions that many argue have turned Venezuela into a military dictatorship. Since Maduro has taken office, whistle-blowers have leaked information linking the Maduro administration to policies that allow for the unequal pay of women, increased tax breaks for Venezuela’s elite and an increased military budget financed by drug trade. During the May Day demonstrations, thousands of Venezuelan federal police officers battered and maimed several demonstrators as anti-Maduro protesters vandalized city structures and set fires in the streets.

Venezuela Protests 2017
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s oppressive regime has incited countless violent protests in Venezuela for nearly a year now.

In Istanbul, May Day demonstrators highlighted the class warfare crisis in Turkey with banners celebrating Marxist and Communist historical figures such as Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin,  Che Guevara and Mao Zedong.

In Paris, Greenpeace demonstrators went as far as to hang banners on the Eiffel Tower with the national motto Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. Protesters hung up these banners in opposition of far-right French politician Marine Le Pen. Le Pen (who represents the far right French political party Front National) has been running in the 2017 presidential election under a campaign advocating for the deportation of thousands of Syrian refugees seeking asylum in France. Le Pen’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and racist rants against French citizens of Pan-Arab and African descent have outraged millions of people around the world who have nicknamed her “The Trump of France.”

May Day 2017-Paris
Two French police officers walk past a banner that was illegally hung on the Eiffel Tower by Greenpeace activists during the Paris May Day demonstrations. The banner reads the French national motto, “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.”

Although the initial goal of May Day protests are to improve the conditions for workers around the world in a non-partisan manner, the world’s May Day 2017 demonstrations were everything but “non-partisan.” As was the case for the Women’s March, the March for Science and the People’s Climate March, the 2017 May Day protests were a series of strong and global political demonstrations. Perhaps we’ve seen the end of the non-partisan protest and maybe that’s exactly what the world needs right now.