may day 2006: immigrants rights protest in Seattle

The May 1st rally and march in Seattle was a powerful expression of strength by the immigrant working class. Thousands of workers in Seattle and across Washington State participated in job actions and strikes, with the biggest actions in the agriculture industry. In addition, thousands of high school and college students walked out of school.

Organizers place the number of protesters in Seattle at 30,000, which mirrors the turn out for April 10th. Following the same route as April 10th the protesters flooded the streets, creating an enormous, beautiful, snaking sea of people. It was truly an empowering, inspiring demonstration. These two protests were the largest in Seattle since the February 15, 2003 march against the Iraq war, which also had 30,000 people.

Unfortunately however, the leadership of the May 1st rally called for a "silent protest," which stood in sharp contrast to the incredibly energetic and combative atmosphere on April 10th. This was due to the reformist outlook of the top organizing groups.

Overall the march was peaceful except for two incidents which reveal a potential polarization in society between the immigrants and their supporters, and a racist right-wing reaction. The first incident involved a lunatic driver that decided to drive his car into the marchers; fortunately no one was seriously injured. The second occurrence was the appearance of several neo-Nazis who stood at the foot of the Federal Building waving a flag with a swastika emblazed upon it. They were quickly taken into the Federal Building by several heavily armed government agents.

Another noteworthy happening was a speech at the rally by Democrat Ron Sims, the King County Executive. This follows an April 10th speech by Democrat Mayor of Seattle Greg Nichols, which highlights the manoeuvrings of the local Democratic Political machine which is scrambling to stay at the head of this movement in order to control it and keep it within "safe" channels.

Socialist Alternative’s Intervention

In Seattle, Socialist Alternative energetically mobilized for the May 1st action. We were the only organization leafleting for the May 1st protest at the previous April 10th demonstration and organized two public meetings to publicize the May 1 rally. Also, we were in frequent contact with the media, which was a result of Socialist Alternative being the only Seattle area organization listed on the website, the main group which put out the call for May 1 nationally.

We had a very good intervention in the protest. We sold 240 papers and raised $316 in fighting fund. 90 people signed up to find out more about Socialist Alternative.

We handed out approximately 2500 leaflets to advertise for two upcoming events (an open branch meeting with NAFTA being the topic and a movie showing of "Walkout" which tells the story of the 1968 Chicano student walkouts in Los Angeles).

We also were able to sell approximately 185 new Socialist Alternative immigrant rights buttons we made for the protest. We were able to make and mail almost 1000 of these for all the branches to sell throughout the country on May 1.

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May 2006