Brief Local History of May Day

In 2001, one of the last International Workers’ Day gatherings was held in Long Beach; this march was themed “Carnival against Capital” and involved about 200 protestors. The downtown Long Beach action was violently suppressed by the Long Beach Police Department, which used “non-lethal weapons” against activists and arrested more than 100 people (locals later dubbed the incident “The Long Beach May Day Melee”). According to the L.A. Times, most cases ended with plea bargain; moreover, independent media indicated that two arrestees were later deported. An LBPD sergeant told the L.A. Times after the police-led attacks and arrests, “I think we surprised them with our aggressive stance.”

Since, activity during May Day has been scarce in Long Beach. However, in 2012, riding on the wave of the nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement, more than 150 Occupy Long Beach activists – staged a march in downtown. There, the marchers made strategic stops in front of banks; (which had been bailed out by the federal government), and led chants against mass deportations at the city’s Federal Building, which houses the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E) office.

The last notable United States May Day mobilizations took place in 2006 in response to a Republican-led House of Representatives bill, H-R 4437 (also known as the Sensenbrenner bill), which would have effectively criminalized immigrants. Millions of people took part in May Day protests throughout the U.S., including 1 million in downtown L.A. The marches and protests were nicknamed “A Day without Immigrants” by participants. The actions carried the same social power as a mass strike due to boycotts, school walkouts, and workers joining the day’s action. The sheer size of the protests and the further potential impacts they could have held for the U.S. economy if the racist legislation went through, were enough to stop the Sensenbrenner bill in its tracks. The bill failed to pass in the Senate.