CCR’s offices will be closed on Monday, May 1. But we’re not taking a day off from our commitment to social justice.
Monday, May 1, is May Day – International Workers’ Day – an official holiday in most countries. It’s a day when working people bring their grievances with capitalism and demands for equality into the streets.
This year, despite the lack of official sanction in the United States, May Day is coming home in a big way, as a day of mass protest against the reactionary Trump regime and the system that facilitated his rise to power.
Answering the call for a general strike on May 1, people will skip work, walk out of school, and boycott business as usual, all to stand in solidarity with the many communities under attack by the new authorities in Washington, especially immigrant workers and their families.
CCR management and the union representing our staff, the National Organization of Legal Services Workers have agreed that this is a critical moment for our staff to honor the general-strike call and join with the fight-back movement in the streets. Because we’re not only parts of a progressive legal organization; we are also activists, organizers, educators, and members of affected communities.
May Day actually began in the United States, in 1886, with the struggle for the eight-hour work day. Its first martyrs were anarchist and socialist organizers from Chicago, framed for a police-instigated massacre.
Immigrant workers formed the backbone of this movement. Their cry for justice spread around the globe, and became a force for social change. Through the Great Depression of the 1930s, New York’s Union Square was the epicenter of May Day, drawing tens of thousands each year.
It was only later, during the Cold War witch-hunt of the 1940s and 1950s, when many of CCR’s forebears cut their teeth defending Constitutional rights against McCarthyism, that May Day was virtually wiped out in the United States. But it continued to flourish globally.
It was immigrants from Latin America, rallying against attacks on undocumented workers, who revived the tradition of May Day with a massive “undeclared” general strike from Los Angeles to New York on May 1, 2006. In the decade since, May Day – through the Occupy Movement, Black Lives Matter, the Fight for $15 and more – has once again become recognized as a day of struggle for workers and marginalized communities in the U.S.
How timely that revival is. From the labor movement to Muslims, from the African American community to LGBTQ people, women and the disabled, from antiwar, environmental, and animal rights activists to prisoners – every progressive movement, every community, every right won over decades of hard struggle, is under attack.
We know, too, that this crisis didn’t begin with Trump’s “selection.” The attacks on people’s Constitutional and social rights have been deepening for decades through successive administrations, both Republican and Democratic. We haven’t forgotten, for example, that President Obama was dubbed “Deporter in Chief” by immigrant rights groups. His administration was responsible for 2.5 million deportations between 2009 and 2015, more than any other in history. The problem is systemic.
But there’s no denying that Trump’s outrageous, blatant bigotry has brought a new sense of urgency and activism to millions of people. And while self-appointed Democratic leaders of “The Resistance” in Washington may quietly shuffle into the background now that they have found common ground with Trump over continuing and escalating wars abroad, the role of grassroots movements and community leadership is more crucial than ever.
No one knows how big May Day 2017 will be – not Washington, not Wall Street, and certainly not us. At a time when families are being ripped apart and immigrant communities are living in terror of ICE raids on workplaces, homes, schools – even courtrooms! – we can’t pretend to know whether our neighbors, friends and families will feel strong enough to turn out in their millions.
But we do know this: solidarity is key. The more political activists, union members, legal advocates, and others take to the streets today, the more they will help to overcome the fear tomorrow.
We ask you, CCR supporters, to join us in the streets. Join your local May Day protest, large or small. And keep participating after May 1. When you stand up for those under attack, you are helping us all take a step forward in building a powerful movement.
No work! No school! No shopping! No business as usual!