Note: The following statement is being released on behalf of a group of organizers of Occupy/Decolonize Seattle’s May Day events who have chosen to speak as a group regarding May 1st and the controversies in the media narrative since.
We are organizers and participants involved in this year’s May Day events. Many of us also participate in Occupy/Decolonize Seattle. We conceived the events of the May Day General Strike as a celebration of life in solidarity with the global uprising against economic oppression and the 1%. May Day is a day of pride for migrants and workers everywhere. It is a day of remembrance for the anarchists executed in show trials after the world’s first May Day in 1886, fighting for the 8-hour work day. Most powerfully, it is a day of struggle—of celebrating freedom and striking out against what hurts us.
Reports that May 1st was “hijacked by anarchists” are inaccurate and insulting. May Day was an inspiration to us all. The crowd was multiracial and multigenerational, and included many working class students who walked out from multiple high schools and colleges. Over 40 local artists took the stage during the day of music and community Hip Hop Occupies to Decolonize planned at Westlake Park. Organizers also scheduled three marches over a month in advance: a No Borders March, to join the May 1st Coalition march to the Wells Fargo Building; an Honor the Dead, Fight for the Living March, in honor of Trayvon Martin and all those killed by police and by white supremacist culture; and an Anti-Capitalist March. Thousands took the streets during these actions and disrupted commerce in downtown Seattle.
During the Anti-Capitalist March, participants in a black bloc smashed windows and damaged businesses and cars. Among the businesses targeted were a Wells Fargo branch, a Niketown, an American Apparel, and a Bank of America. There is tremendous anger worldwide directed at these institutions. Each of the corporations and banks that own the damaged stores inflict real economic and social violence on the planet and on poor people everywhere. Wells Fargo, for one, is complicit in enormous direct and structural violence through its 3.5 million shares in GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest operator of private prisons. The same corporation lobbied aggressively for SB1070, Arizona’s racist anti-immigrant legislation, to profit from the “enhanced opportunities” the law provides for immigrants’ incarceration. The rage expressed during the Anti-Capitalist March extends beyond the black bloc. No one should be surprised that people are angry enough to destroy the property of the 1%. Regardless of differences in practice, we share that anger.
Economic refugees and people of color everywhere are treated as exploitable labor. Media depictions support this exploitation. The media selects representatives from immigrant rights organizations to speak for all migrants and economic refugees, and silences the migrant workers marching in the Anti-Capitalist March and those of us organizers who are people of color, economic refugees, and indigenous people. Similarly, accusations that undocumented workers were put at risk on May Day conceal the truth: the only danger to participants in May Day activities came from the police themselves.
Mayor McGinn, the SPD, and the Seattle media have tried to split May Day participants between “good protesters” and “violent anarchists.” As organizers and participants, however, we reject all attempts to divide us, and stand together in defining our own message. We value people above property. The corporations attacked, and these institutions that protect them, are not on the side of the working class or the 99%. The lives these businesses destroy are more important than their windows. We remain in solidarity with those everywhere who fight for a life worth living.