Who was out on May Day?

May 15, 2013

On Mayday we got a chance to talk to some of the folks who made it out to the main demonstrations in Union Square- here’s what some of them had to say:

Henry | 21 | PSLHenry, 21

Are you here with any organization(s)?
I’m here with the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
What do you think is the single biggest threat to working people today?
The single biggest threat to working people today is capitalism- it’s a racist, oppressive, sexist system that is set up to steal workers’ wealth and their productivity, and give them crumbs in exchange for the work that they do. Their work is basically what makes everything around us possible, like our clothes, our food- everything- all these buildings around us are made by workers. But the bosses steal all that wealth from the workers. So until we get rid of bosses, working people will always be wage slaves.
What do you think is the single biggest thing people can do today to get rid of bosses?
What we need to do is basically take to the streets, like we’re doing today, but on a more frequent basis, and on a more militant basis also, I would say. People need to be ready to sit in the Tombs. During Occupy I sat in the Tombs a few times, but that’s what happens when you’re struggling against an oppressive system, you have to be a political prisoner at times, and you have to accept that risk, that yeah, you could lose your job- but that’s your kids right there, that’s your future! Like, I don’t want my grandkids to grow up in capitalism because the bosses are destroying the world right now. There’s going to be no world to work in soon, because what’s happening is global warming, hydrofracking, the Keystone pipeline- all this is going on and nobody knows about it, it’s all hidden from the media. It’s not one issue.

Danica | 23 | Free UniversityDanica, 23

Are you here with any organizations?
The Free University
What are your intentions in coming out today?
I’m just here to support the struggles of collective labor, the struggles of immigrant labor, but also free education for all- that’s a big part of why I’m here.
And what about free education inspired you?
Well, education is becoming systematically less and less available to people, as part of the neoliberalization of higher education. People are not able to afford higher education, which I think is a crime, because I think education is a fundamental human right. And it’s becoming in fact class warfare based on the types of tuitions that people can no longer afford to pay. And it relates to the larger overall stratification of society. And it’s bad!
Do you see any labor struggles in the world of education right now?
Yeah, absolutely. There’s something called The Adjunct Project, which is doing really great work in organizing students who do adjunct labor- because they’re not earning a living wage, they have no collective bargaining rights, they are increasingly placed in more and more precarious positions where they can’t afford their rents, and it’s a hot mess. So I think some of the most exciting organizing is being done around the issue of adjunctification. Recently, the president of MLA, Michael Berryway, he gave an address at the annual MLA conference- so it was sort of like the most important people in the field-
What’s the MLA?
The Modern Language Association– I’m in English, so I work in Language and Literature- so it was really exciting when the president of our foremost association came out in support of the need for tenured professors to rally around their adjuncts, and support them- because ultimately our teaching conditions become our students’ learning conditions. So the less that adjuncts are paid, it really ends up being the students who suffer. Because their professors don’t have the time to spend with them in office hours, they don’t have the time to grade their papers, they don’t have time to do detailed lesson plans, because they are struggling just to survive.

Five | 38 | Campaign to End the New Jim CrowFive, 38

Are you here with any organization(s)?
Campaign to End the New Jim Crow
What do you think is the single biggest threat to working people today?
I believe the single biggest threat to working people is mass incarceration in America, because the system attacks the working class. This is a system of attack that has been happening since the working class structure has lost their jobs, due to American companies that actually ship overseas and use other companies out of the country to formulate products and then they assemble them here. So I believe that this class, this caste of people has been incarcerated in a mass multitude when those jobs were gone. And in some sense, the biggest threat to the working class is incarceration- because you’re left poor, without any employment. I mean, that’s how a lot of corporations aren’t even based in America, they’re based in the Cayman Islands- like GE makes $30 billion a year and they’re based in the Cayman Islands and pay no American taxes.
Can you talk about how that’s related to mass incarceration a bit more?
It’s related to mass incarceration because when you have this caste system of working class people, “lower middle class and poor people,” who are working all of the factory jobs in this industrial part of America, when technology improved and things became shipped out to foreign countries, those warehouse and manufacturing jobs were lost. And these poor people- when you implement drugs into that area- have no other choices available for economic empowerment, and they end up resorting to using drugs, or selling drugs, and then that formulates crime, and then of course the criminalization. But this mass incarceration- that’s 2.5 million people who are incarcerated, who are majority lower class, poor people.
What do you think is the single biggest thing that working people can do to stop mass incarceration today?
Actually, form together! We need to basically build up our own empowerment in our community and that takes caring communities and saying no to prisons. So we need to formulate our communities, which is a better support base, and we need to empower ourselves with our own entrepreneurship, jobs- we need to have our own venues, our own construction of our self and not depending on just working for corporations. We need to breed the next generation of entrepreneurship for Americans in America.

Mike | 21Mike, 21

Are you here with any organization(s)?
Not really, but I am here for the reason that everybody’s here- and that’s freedom, trying to tax the rich, we can’t be treated like we’re nothing to this government.
What do you think is the single most important thing people can do today to stop being treated like they’re nothing?
Well they can start coming to marches, like we’re having right now- and everyone has their own opinion and they can bring it out here and tell the government and everybody what we want.
What do you think that will do?
That will make a movement- that will make the government think, “They really want this, if they don’t get this now…” I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re going to keep marching every day then.

Dave | 64 | Charas El BohioDave, 64

Are you here with any organization(s)?
I didn’t check with them to get release to talk on behalf of them- but I’m affiliated with Picture the Homeless, Cooper Square here in my neighborhood- Lower East Side- where I’m from, GOLES, and the main one is CHARAS El Bohio. Pick up The Villager– Cooper Union wants to build dormitories and have like a restaurant in the front, and we’re trying to fight that, to get it back.
What are your intentions in coming out today?
Well usually I try to come out here every year. Last year was bigger than this year I noticed. Somehow this year I think is different – last year was a little more union-generated. This year seems like more- I think because of the immigration thing that’s happening right now- they’re a little more galvanized so more of their people came out.
What do you think is the single biggest threat to working people today?
I think two things- jobs and housing. Housing being traditional, and jobs in that because of the bad thing that happened down on Wall St., where nobody went to jail, but meanwhile you have stop and frisk. Like we could be talking right here- thank God- the thing that happened in Boston happened with a knapsack- because if it happened with a shopping cart- guess what, they’d be checking this shopping cart. More and more, our freedom is being impinged, and I mean, I don’t want to sound like very paranoid, but we seem to be living in what I call “disaster capitalism” now. In that before it used to be like the war bureaucracy, but now it seems like any thing that happens, if it’s a bombing, they say “Oh well we gotta bring out a new camera,” like mark my words- the thing that happened in Boston, we’re gonna have more cameras here, they’re already asking for more. And then they go to some other thing, like some kind of x-ray that can x-ray the whole body. So like the whole technology, and all innovation is driven- from their point of view a security point, but from our point of view it’s a lockdown. And right now, I dunno if you heard about the public housing, they want to take back the parking lots and the playgrounds, which we fought for- to build luxury housing because they say that will free up money to get in the backlog of repairs, which is B.S. Because I spoke with the community board three times already and you can’t- that’s a disaster recipe. Because you can’t have rich people living 6 feet away from people who don’t have money. Cuz guess what? Somebody’s iPod gets stolen? Lockdown time. So you think stop and frisk is bad- you ain’t seen nothing yet.
What do you think is the single biggest thing people can do to organize to stop “disaster capitalism”?
I would say from an orthodox point, everybody should register to vote. Because that’s the last thing we have that has some power. The reason? For a lot of people, their biggest complaint is- usually they’re people who don’t vote and then they want to know why the politicians don’t come to their neighborhood. So if everyone in Whole Foods market building votes, and these people didn’t vote, guess who the politician’s going to talk to? People are going to shake hands there, and then wonder why he don’t come here. Because you’re inconsequential!

Michelle | 37 | Occupy Wall StreetMichelle, 37

What are your intentions in coming out today?
I’m here with Occupy Wall Street, and I’m out here inspired- Mayday is historical in terms of labor rights. But also, all of our grievances are connected, all of our struggles are connected. So we as a people, realizing that all of our stuff is connected, then we’ll be more powerful, and can work together, and then we’ll make progress.
What do you think is the single biggest thing that people can do to get connected?
Well, I know personally if you go to Occupy Wall Street, there are tons of causes to get involved in, but overall if you just have internet access, and there’s something that you’re passionate about, whether it’s hunger or- just google it and you’ll find a cause and they’ll be like “Please, just help us out,” and you can get involved in it.

Dawoud | 23 Dawoud, 23

What are your intentions in coming out today?
I want to create change, I want to create change for the better, you know? Obama promised us change and all he gave us was some cheap ass cell phones, so I want to create something better than what we have. It’s good already but we could always do better.
What do you think is the single biggest threat to working people today?
The military industrial complex. Especially that New York is becoming a police state. It’s a lot of things joined into one- it’s basically like a million ways to wear a person down or wear the community down. It’s like a Roman tactic to wear down the enemy or opponent over time; you give them less and less little by little, and by the time it’s all over and done with, you have them in the palm of your hand with nothing and you have everything.
What do you think is the single biggest thing that people can do to organize against or stop that?
To tell you the truth I don’t think it could be stopped- unless a large amount of people- and I mean a large amount of people- I’m not talking about like one park filled with people, I’m talking like boroughs filled with people- stand up like the French Revolution and fight for what they believe in. I personally think that murder and mayhem ain’t the way to go, but at the same time, there’s only one way to stop it- is to resist it. And the only way to resist it is through not listening to what they’re saying and that’s always going to create violence. But I’m not saying this to propose murder and mayhem, but just to say we need something better than what we got.
No thanks

This lady said her signs spoke for her.