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Millions March for Labor Rights | The Nation

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Millions March for Labor Rights

On Sunday, millions of demonstrators around the globe marched for labor rights (KVAL.com has posted a gallery of photos from international workers’ day celebrations).

In the US, thousands of protesters turned out in Wisconsin where the battle over collective bargaining rights rages on.

Wisconsin demonstrators marched two miles through downtown Milwaukee, waving US and Mexican flags and holding signs showing a raised fist in the shape of the state. Similar scenes played out across the nation and around the world, as millions of workers from Havana to Berlin and Istanbul took to the streets.

The rally ended at a park nearby Lake Michigan, where AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addressed the crowd about the importance of solidarity between immigrants and labor.

“It’s the same fight,” he said. “It’s the same people that are attacking immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, student rights, voting rights.”

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, founder and executive director of Voces de la Frontera, accused Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and other conservatives of “scapegoating immigrants, union workers, and poor people for rising unemployment, low wages and lack of benefits.”

Thousands of supporters marched through downtown Los Angeles to demand a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the country. As the protesters moved through the streets, they chanted, “Legalization or no re-election!”

The Hispanic community is torn over the best approach to pressuring President Obama to support a path to citizenship. Pro-immigration reform leaders have mostly stopped asking Hispanic citizens to vote against the president and other Democrats in 2012 because the Republicans are the ones really blocking reform, says Javier Rodriguez of the March 25 Coalition.

But not everyone agrees with that approach.

Alfredo Gutierrez, a former Democratic state senator from Arizona, said Obama could not be counted on to enact the promised reforms.

“We should deny our votes to Obama, a man who clearly is not sincere about his intentions,” he told AFP.

“We will not get anything from Obama. We just need his to stop the systematic deportation of children, students and parents, because it is destroying our community.”

Thousands of protesters turned out in New York and Connecticut. In Hartford, more than 1,000 union members and their families gathered near the state Capitol to protest the growing assault on middle-class workers by the GOP and corporations.

“There is a class war going on and it’s against the middle class—they’re trying to exterminate us,” said John Olsen, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

A couple May Day demonstrators were detained in Louisville, Kentucky. Two people were cited for possession of graffiti materials and “desecration of venerated objects” after downtown Louisville buildings were graffitied.

Domestic and international protests alike centered on the same issues: economic inequality, job creation, better working conditions, higher wages and decent healthcare.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in the streets of Istanbul this year. Members of a Turkey LGBT group joined the celebrations, along with many high school students. The mood of Istanbul’s celebrations was very different from previous years when protesters and police clashed violently.

People carried hundreds of different placards and banners and hung pictures of Marx, Engels and Lenin on the square. A large picture of a worker with chains on his hands was also hung on the Atatürk Cultural Center, or AKM—the same image hung on May Day 1977, when Taksim became the scene of a bloody massacre in which at least 34 people died.

A massive demonstration of 10,000 people took place in Britain’s Trafalgar Square in which labor organizers and their supporters protested government spending cuts. During the event, demonstrators called for a general strike to force the coalition to change its policies.

In other UK news, four people arrested during an anti-capitalist May Day protest in Brighton have been charged by Sussex Police.

Michael Cutting and Madeleine Hayes have been charged with refusing to remove their face masks when asked to do so by a police officers (Cutting was also charged with being in possession of “items used to destroy or damage property”) and Jorge Lagar and Owen Lewis were charged with assaulting police officers, according to the BBC.

Demonstrations also took place in France, Greece, Egypt, Gremany and Iraq, attracting hundreds of thousands of protesters. The Guardian reports that up to 120,000 people turned out for France’s marches in 200 locations. Protesters voiced their objection to high unemployment (9.6 percent) and jobs cuts in the public sector, while showcasing their support for the popular uprisings in the Arab world.

In Greece unions said around 12,000 workers took to the streets in central Athens. Cuts in public sector pay and pensions along with higher taxes were the main focus of protests.

Unemployment in Greece has also climbed to a record high of 15.1%. After the rallies there were minor scuffles between police and a small group of self-proclaimed anarchists in the bohemian district of Exarhia in central Athens.

Meanwhile in Iraq, hundreds of people, many of them members of the Iraqi Communist Party, demonstrated in the capital Baghdad to press for more jobs and equal labour rights for women. Thousands of Iraqis, inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab region, have taken to the streets in recent months to press for better basic services and an end to corruption.

Demonstrators, many carrying red flags associated with Iraq’s communist party, marched peacefully in Baghdad’s central Firdous Square, chanting: “First of May is the day for workers.”

Moscow’s protest brought out 500 nationalists who rallied to protest against the government’s support of impoverished regions of Russia. Activists wore surgical facemasks and carried banners that read, “Russia for Russians!” and “Migrant workers get out!”

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