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Demonstrators at May Day Rallies Worldwide Demand Workers' Rights

A May Day march in Melbourne, Australia, in 2012. (Johan Fantenberg / Flickr) (CC-BY-SA)

By Andrea Germanos / Common Dreams

A May Day march in Melbourne, Australia, in 2012. (Johan Fantenberg / Flickr) (CC-BY-SA)

Workers on Sunday marked May Day across the globe with rallies in cities from Paris to Istanbul to Manila.

Some of the protesters faced violence from police. According to reporting by Reuters, “Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon and detained more than 200 people after scuffles broke out at May Day celebrations in Istanbul and some anti-government protesters tried to breach a ban on access to the main Taksim square.”

As France’s parliament is weighing a bill that would erode worker protections, “hundreds of angry youths on the sidelines of a May Day labor rally hurled stones and wood at police in Paris, receiving repeated bursts of tear gas in response,” the Associated Press reports.

“Similar fears about erosion of rights,” according to Agence France-Presse, sent “tens of thousands on to the streets of South Korea.”

Calls for justice from crowds were far-reaching, as in Germany, where, according to Euronews, “unions called on people to oppose xenophobia, right-wing extremism, and a divided society.”

And in London, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attacked the politics of austerity, criticizing at a rally “a government that is more interested in tax relief for corporations, and tax relief at the top end of the scale,” and saying, “We’re here today to defend the national health service free at the point of service as a human right for all.”

In the U.S., despite the holiday’s origins in Chicago, many may not even know about the day.

Historian Peter Linebaugh, author of the new book “The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day,” explained to Democracy Now! recently, “In a way, there’s manufactured ignorance that prevents us from knowing about May Day. The rest of the world celebrates it, but here at the center, where May Day was created as a workers’ holiday … we’re in ignorance. And this ignorance has been caused.”

Asked by host Amy Goodman why it isn’t celebrated in the U.S., Linebaugh replied, “It’s a contest. It’s a confrontation. The rulers of the United States, the 1 percent, the slaveocrats, the Gilded Age capitalists, the billionaires and the police forces behind them—this is at the end of the 19th century—they leagued together in order to separate May Day and that workers’ struggle from the rest of the world. And Grover Cleveland in 1894 said—was forced by labor unions; he wanted their vote—he said, ‘OK, you can have a Labor Day. It’s going to be the 1st of September.'”

“And what you’re supposed to do on the 1st of September is not march, but go shopping. Go … get some sales at the new department stores. That’s Labor Day,” Linebaugh said.

Andrea Germanos / Common Dreams

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