Officially, the City of Seattle isn’t issuing permits for marches and rallies due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions but organizers of the annual May Day march here say they will again take to the streets Saturday.
“Join us on May 1st as we take the message to the streets that ‘there is no going back to normal!,'” organizers from El Comité write.
The city says “unrestricted events” like marches can’t adequately be controlled for the number of participants and social distancing so it isn’t issuing permits and officially closing streets or providing planned Seattle Police “First Amendment support” but a spokesperson says City Hall is aware of “multiple events” planned to take place over the weekend including Saturday’s march.
The 2021 May 1st march is being planned to begin at noon outside Iglesia de Santa María at 20th Ave S and Weller. The traditional step off point at St. Mary’s Church this year will begin a march through the city that organizers say will remind people of the need to organize for civil rights even through the struggles of unrest and pandemic in the past year:
As workers, we have entered 2021 with eyes wide open after having witnessed the murder of George Floyd, the caging of children in our southern border and the most massive racist outpouring since the civil war. Asian communities along with Native, Black, Latinx, and Immigrants have suffered brutal and cowardly attacks. 2020 has exposed that the nature of the present system needs to change. Health Care, Inclusive Immigration Reform, Public Safety Reform, Homelessness, Housing and Jobs must be a priority. Yet, for us to make considerable gains we must ensure the right to organize!
May Day and its place in pro labor and workers rights marches and protest has remained a major annual event in the city with El Comite’s efforts at the center of the day.
This year, march organizers have listed seven demands:
- Immigration Reform for All Now! (Abolish ICE, End Immigration Detentions, Release the Detained Children, Regularize all workers and their families)
- Support the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act!
- Oppose Amazon’s recent so-called victory over the workers and demand real honest elections!
- Cancel Rental Debt and Evictions – Housing must be a right for everyone!
- Police Reform and redistribution of local resources that will insure people’s health and safety led by the community and not GOVERNMENT institutions.
- We need a well-funded Public Health system to confront viruses like COVID-19.
- Stop Racist attacks and End White Supremacy!
The May Day march that has included thousands of participants in past years comes as health officials remain concerned about high infection and hospitalization rates even as around 40% of Seattle’s adult population has now been vaccinated and supply of the vaccines here has finally outstripped demand. Large gatherings like professional sporting events are being allowed to continue at reduced capacity and recommendations remain in place encouraging social distancing and masking.
Protests away from the march remain a concern for city officials and large global chains that are frequently targeted like Starbucks and Nike after past clashes spiraled into riots as police moved in on crowds over property damage and to clear streets. The city has been mostly quiet following the large march in recent years.
But in 2016, clashes in downtown, Belltown, Pioneer Square marred the day while 2015 marks the last time May Day protests, property damage, and Seattle Police crowd control efforts were centered on Capitol Hill.
Last year as the pandemic was growing, organizers opted for a “Caravan to Olympia” as advocates traveled to the state capitol. Meanwhile, Kshama Sawant’s office organized a “Seattle Car Caravan Protest” to demand support for legislation to tax Amazon.
In 2019, CHS reported on a third straight year of a mostly calm and peaceful day of awareness and protest around May Day festivities as the march and a massive police presence passed by progressive hotspots around the Central District, Capitol Hill, and downtown including The Chateau apartments, the county youth jail, and, even the Whole Foods at Broadway and Madison.
Other May Day traditions might continue, nonetheless. In 2021, after a year of plywood covering businesses shuttered under COVID-19 restrictions, it’s not clear if wood will go up again over the windows this year at the Starbucks Roastery.
City officials said Friday Seattle “has a tradition of peaceful marches on May Day; however, a few individuals who attend are intent on committing property destruction.” The announcement included City Hall’s updated guide “on how to prepare and secure your employees, customers, and property.”
“In the last ten months, SPD has also made significant changes to its crowd management policy to protect resident’s constitutionally protected right to free speech and assembly while assuring the protection of life, property, and the civil liberties of peacefully gathered groups,” it reads.
Meanwhile, work was underway Friday on a new, tall, black fence rising outside Capitol HIll’s East Precinct.
CHS reported here on SPD’s announcement early this month that it was beginning the process of taking down the protective cement wall added around the 12th and Pine building in the wake of CHOP. The department says that full removal will depend on “whether the building again becomes a target for arson and property damage.”
Black Lives Matter demonstrations and the cause of justice for George Floyd grew in 2020 and became the foundation for a summer of activism and protest as blast balls and gas filled the streets of Capitol Hill in June and the occupied protest zone of CHOP formed. While protests have continued in the neighborhood, anti-police activities have waned from the late summer’s heights.
In the meantime, the new, tall fence SPD described as “temporary” is being installed in anticipation of the removal of the cement blockades stacked around the street corner in front of it.
We asked SPD and the Seattle Department of Transportation whose crews were on hand at the project for more information on the new fence but our questions were referred to the mayor’s office.
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