The Washington Post

Frustration and hope for May Day protesters in U.S., around the world

Demonstrators in many cities around the United States marched in support of immigration reform on May Day. In Seattle, a confrontation between a group of protesters and police led to violence, the Associated Press reports:

Several dozen protesters, many using bandanas to cover their faces, began clashing with police in downtown Seattle hours after a peaceful immigrant-rights march ended.

Protesters threw rocks and bottles at police officers and news crews. As they moved through downtown Seattle to another nearby neighborhood, they flung construction street barriers, trash cans and newspaper bins on the streets in an attempt to block advancing police officers. Windows of local businesses were broken and vehicles with people in them were banged around. . .

Police used their bikes to shield businesses and eventually began to use pepper spray and “flash bang’ grenades — releasing a flash of light, smoke and a loud noise — to disperse the crowd. (Read the rest of the article here.)

Eighteen protesters were arrested, police said. Meanwhile, a crowd in Salem, Ore. cheered Gov. John Kitzhaber (D)as he signed a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers’ licenses. Oregon is one of several states that have passed new laws on immigration, without waiting for Congress to take action on the controversial issue.

This year, activists supporting more liberal immigration laws are focusing on direct appeals to Congress rather than public demonstrations, according to the AP:

The size of the May Day crowds paled in comparison to the massive demonstrations of 2006 and 2007, during the last serious attempt to introduce major changes to the U.S. immigration system. Despite the large turnouts six years ago, many advocates of looser immigration laws felt they were outmaneuvered by opponents who flooded congressional offices with phone calls and faxes at the behest of conservative talk-radio hosts.

Now, immigrant advocacy groups are focusing heavily on contacting members of Congress, using social media and other technology to target specific lawmakers. Reform Immigration for America, a network of groups, claims more than 1.2 million subscribers, including recipients of text messages and Facebook followers.

May Day demonstrations in some other countries were more heated, the AP reports:

Many nations have been struggling with economic downturns for several years now, and workplace disasters in developing countries are nothing new, but the intensity of some of Wednesday’s gatherings suggested workers’ frustrations have grown especially acute, with many demanding immediate action to address their concerns.

The anger was painfully evident in Bangladesh, where the collapse last week of an illegally built eight-story facility housing multiple garment factories killed more than 400 in a Dhaka suburb. The building collapse followed a garment factory fire in November that killed 112 people in the country, and it has increased the pressure on the global garment industry to improve working conditions. (Read the rest of the article here.)

A mass funeral held on May Day for victims of the Bangladesh collapse was accompanied by raucous protests. Elsewhere, unions held a strike in Athens, halting transportation, and in Istanbul, protesters and police fought after the government banned a May Day demonstration there.

Discuss this topic and other political issues in the politics discussion forums.

Max Ehrenfreund writes for Wonkblog and compiles Wonkbook, a daily policy newsletter. You can subscribe here. Before joining The Washington Post, Ehrenfreund wrote for the Washington Monthly and The Sacramento Bee.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.