Glimpses of May First 2003

Revolutionary Worker #1199, May 18, 2003, posted at

We received the following from A World To Win News Service:

5 May 2003. A World to Win News Service. Following is an account of some May First activities around the world based on the first-hand reports that have reached us so far, as well as wire service accounts.


About 60,000 people marched through the streets of Istanbul, shouting slogans and carrying banners mainly targeting the U.S./U.K. war on Iraq. A contingent of 2,000 supporters of the Maoist Communist Party (Turkey and North Kurdistan) took part. They carried posters of Mao Tsetung and Ibrahim Kaypakkaya and the other three General Secretaries who have been martyred since the party's founding. Slogans giving internationalist support to the revolutionary struggles of people around the world were also very popular. A number of people tried to commemorate the massacre of more than 30 people during the May First march of 1977 by placing flowers at the scene of the killings. This was evidently too much for the Turkish police, who responded with a vicious attack. They severely beat and then arrested about 30 protesters, a number of whom had to be hospitalized. The May First march continued defiantly to spread its message throughout the streets of the city.


Ten thousand people took off work and school to join activities in London, and thousands more around the rest of the UK. Since the May First demonstration in 2000 that saw fighting with police and severe disruption in London, the authorities have mobilized a massive police presence in the city center, deploying more than 4,000 police against the demonstrators. A section of the May 1st organizers grouped around the antiglobalization movement responded in part by targeting numerous different protest sites so as to keep the police off balance and unsure where to concentrate their forces. This year the offices of multinationals associated with the war against Iraq were a special focus of anger, including oil firms like Shell, British Petroleum and Exxon and the world's largest weapons manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, which closed for the day. Thousands of copies of the May First statement of the Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (CoRIM) were distributed. While widely broadcast threats of violent suppression of the action undoubtedly kept some away, the fresh memories of the bloodshed in Iraq inflicted by UK forces inspired others with determination to make their voices heard. There was a strong feeling among many that two very different futures were contending on the city's streets. Many hundreds engaged in hit-and-run protests around the city till late into the night. One of the main tactics of the police was to encircle bunches of demonstrators in alleyways and small streets to limit disruption. The protesters struggled to counter the encirclement tactics by racing ahead of police concentrations to major thoroughfares and large squares, where even if they were surrounded the result would be major disruption of business as usual in this capital of global finance.

There were scuffles and confrontations at such major sites as Trafalgar Square, where baton- wielding officers charged a small crowd that refused to disperse; the Strand, where officers encircled good- humored but very defiant protesters for several hours and finally stormed the crowd; and Whitehall, seat of much of the British government.


In Berlin this year a demonstration took place in the Kreuzberg district, home of a 15- year-old tradition of revolutionary May Day actions. Thousands gathered in a square at 1 p.m. to hear messages and speakers, including a well-known progressive journalist from Turkey. They condemned U.S. imperialism and its war on Iraq and supported the People's War in Nepal and other just causes. By 3 p.m. as many as 15,000 people had come to take part in the unified revolutionary May Day march through the streets. Banners in support of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement were prominent. As in several other European cities, the World People's Resistance Movement also took part. Afterwards police reported street fighting with several injured and many arrests.

An attempted march by members of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party was disrupted by angry progressive forces.

Traditional May 1st clashes between large numbers of youth and police also occurred in Hamburg.

Spain and Elsewhere in Europe

May Day demonstrations in Madrid, Spain, saw a combination of huge trade union contingents and more radical elements as in most major European capitals. They focused in particular on the U.S.-led war on Iraq, supported by Prime Minister Aznar's government despite all but unanimous popular opposition. A crowd of 100,000 in Madrid marched behind banners proclaiming "No to War." Signs called for Bush, Blair and Aznar to be tried as war criminals. Other actions included a militant protest at the U.S. embassy aimed at the continuing occupation.

A similar demonstration took place in Athens. Prague (Czech Republic) was the scene of "antiwar, anticapitalist" protests, according to news agency reports.

In Paris, where the trade unions that predominated the march emphasized opposition to the government's drastic cuts in pension rights, large and often noisy rear contingents aimed at the U.S./U.K. occupation and gave much prominence to solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Palestinians carried photos of Rachel Corrie, an American "international" killed by the Israelis while trying to protect Palestinian children.

U.S.--Los Angeles

At the end of the work day on 1 May some 6,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of central Los Angeles where there is a concentration of sweatshops. Garment workers, building cleaners, restaurant workers and others filled the sidewalks. "Sewing machine operators, Aztec dancers, punks, revolutionary communists, trade unionists, antiwar activists and thousands of immigrant proletarians urged passers-by to join the demonstration," reported the Revolutionary Worker newspaper, "chanting `No to the war, yes to the workers' and `Legalization now'... Mexicans, people from El Salvador and Guatemalans marched to the rhythm of Korean drums. The colorful clothing of two Nigerians contrasted beautifully with the painted skins of Mexican punks. Landless peasants from Vera Cruz and Guerrero (in southern Mexico) marched shoulder to shoulder with Chicano students... Three large youth contingents from the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, Not in Our Name and the Blue Triangle Network (a pro-immigrant rights coalition) created a lively atmosphere." A slogan much seen on T-shirts, banners, etc. was "Legalize L.A.", referring to the very many immigrants without papers who make up much of the city's large workforce.

Other actions to mark May Day were held in Berkeley and San Francisco, California, and elsewhere in the U.S.

Bogotá and Elsewherein Latin America

It has been many years since Bogotá has seen anything to compare with this year's May First march. About 200,000 marched through the city streets and assembled for a rally. The biggest contingents were led by the trade unions, with demands aimed at recent antiworker legislation. There were also large and highly diverse other contingents, including the anarchist Black Bloc, various political parties and Maoists. The slogan "Yankees out of Iraq, Colombia and the whole world" was taken up in many forms. Another May Day march was held in Barranquilla, on the Caribbean coast.

With 100,000 people, the May First march in La Paz, Bolivia was also a major event. Some signs denounced the Iraq war, the U.S. and the trade relations it is forcing on Latin America. There was a large contingent of peasant women. Another 50,000 people marched in the city of El Alto.

A march of 20,000 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was aimed at the government, which has been implementing measures demanded by the U.S. and other international investors that have brought a large part of the population to ruin.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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