May 1st 2017 — International Workers’ Day — New York
In Europe, International Workers’ Day has been celebrated for decades on May 1st with myriad events across the continent; in the United States, this day has increasingly fallen into obscurity, losing its original objective of expressing political opposition to the status quo through large public gatherings in the streets.
This year, however, May 1st was marked in the US by a renewed significance. The wave of protests that rose spontaneously throughout the country in the wake of Trump’s election (from the Women’s March and the International Women’s Strike to the many immigration and environmental rallies and the Black Lives Matter actions) set the stage for a larger and louder celebration of workers’ rights, one that aimed to give continuity to the many acts of opposition that took place during the beginning of the year.
As this year’s International Workers’ Day approached, activists, trade unions and civil rights organizations joined the call for a general strike and a series of protests in all major American cities.
In New York, thousands took to the streets to defend workers’ rights, calling for a greater freedom to unionize and marching against the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to attack immigrant workers. A heterogenous constituency, composed of various special interest blocs, mobilized to express a wide range of demands as well as the desire to hold together the different issues in a single movement: from the fight against deportation to the right to universal healthcare; from the Fight for $15 to the struggle against Right-to-Work laws. Starting at 9am, rallies, picket lines and marches began appearing across the city, with the last actions continuing into the evening — a demonstration of solidarity that proved once again the city’s unique ability to flex its muscle in this age of heightened political strife.
Some of the most urgent calls to action came from the immigrant groups and their representatives. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the United States find themselves forced to work under-payed, under-the-table jobs — and now they face a renewed fear of ICE raids in the workplace and its increasingly aggressive deportation policy.
WOPS was present in the streets of New York gathering images and testimonies from the protest actions.
If The Women Are United
March 8th 2017 — International Women’s Strike — New York City
It’s nighttime for the hundreds of thousands of women who went on strike across Europe on International Women’s Day when the crowd in New York starts gathering in Washington Square Park. The iconic arch is lit up by a projection that reads “Women Strike”, and beneath it women representing many different communities are speaking into a microphone: Palestinian women, Black Lives Matter activists, healthcare workers, immigrants… A plurality of voices and experiences, exemplifying together the new intersectional feminism that in recent months has been making waves around the world.
The square is packed with people and filled with a variety of signs. They are held together by a feminist movement that hopes to challenge the sexism and xenophobia raised by Trump’s election, which was a direct consequence of a system rooted deeply in patriarchy and neoliberalism. Soon, the protesters begin marching towards the Financial District, the capital of global finance.
Wednesday’s demonstration took a different posture from the Women’s March in Washington DC. The organizers of the massive January protest against Trump’s divisive presidency decided to not take part in the global strike and only voiced a general message of support through the announcement of “A Day Without a Woman.” The first thing that is clear is that this Women’s Day drove away the ghost of liberal feminism that haunted the march in Washington. The second is that it did so through a strike — three school districts shut down, various university activities were suspended, and many women gave up their salaried or precarious work, as well as care and household work. The strike made visible traditionally invisible work, and by highlighting the current administration’s misogynist policies, shone a light on the deep connections between capital, production and reproduction that affect the life of millions of women around the world.
As the crowd begins to disperse in Zuccotti Park, the ending point of the march, people can leave with the knowledge that this independent and self-organized protest succeeded in introducing a radical and inclusive platform in line with the broader goals of a truly international strike. By striking from both productive and reproductive work, women in the New York area raised their voices to demand a universal right to healthcare, human rights for migrants and LGBTQI individuals, environmental justice, and an end to racist and neocolonial policies.
Awareness of the global nature of this movement seems to grow day by day, and the question that arises at the end of the march is “What’s next? How can we maintain this powerful and enthusiastic awareness of the need for change?” Here in New York, the plan is to hold meetings around the city every week, creating an even broader coalition for the next planned day of action: May Day.