Posted May 8, 2017 by Cooper Point Journal in News

Nine Arrested in Mayday Action

Property Damage and Clashes with Police in Downtown Olympia

By Sylvie Chace

The evening of May 1 brought with it broken glass and clashes with the police, a time-honored tradition in the Northwest. Nine were arrested after the march, which police dubbed ‘a riot’, snaked through downtown, blocking traffic and damaging some property.

A little after 6 p.m. demonstrators, mostly wearing black and covering their faces, began to gather on Fourth and Capitol. They had a sound system playing pop music and passed out snacks, standing around and chatting, til the crowd began to get restless and around 7 p.m. with a gush of black smoke they took to the streets. The group marched down Fourth Avenue, carrying signs reading “Become Ungovernable,” “Fuck Nationalism,” and “Against the Port and its World” referring to the Port of Olympia which has recently come under fire for its shipment of fracking proppants to North Dakota.

The crowd came to a stop at Fourth and Jefferson where the train tracks from the port cross through downtown. After a few minutes, at approximately 7:30 p.m., Olympia Police officers issued a dispersal order, stating that if demonstrators did not leave they would be subject to arrest. The crowd ignored the order, with some shouts of “fuck the police” and gathered closer behind homemade signs and shields.

The group moved down the tracks toward state, as police in riot gear began forming a line to attempt to disperse the crowd. Olympia Police shot pepper pellets and flashbangs into the crowd, who attempted to stand their ground returning the police fire with rocks and possibly other projectiles.

As the police advanced the group fled down the tracks, where there was an altercation between a group of protesters and angry onlookers, who threw bottles and rocks at the crowd. The group then continued around the block toward the Intercity Transit Center where they ran through an alley to evade police, returning to Fourth and Capitol.

This time the march headed up Capitol where the windows of the US Bank, Olympia Federal Credit Union, and Starbucks were broken by participants. It has been reported that up to two other businesses were damaged but we have been unable to confirm this.

Around 8 p.m., about an hour after the group began marching, they started to disperse neard the Olympia Timberland Library, followed closely by police, it was then that 9 participants were arrested. They are charged with Malicious Mischief 1, a Class B Felony.

At 11 p.m. a noise demonstration occurred at the Thurston County Jail to show solidarity with the arrestees. People banged pots and pans, played musical instruments, and yelled in the hopes that those in jail would hear their support.

The signs demonstrators carried that were explicitly against the Port, as well as the choice to stop and attempt to block the tracks, seemed connected to the weeklong blockade of trains leaving the port that happened a few months ago in Olympia. A flier handed out to bystanders explained this, saying,  “The port makes the constant banal atrocities of industrial capitalism possible. The port is part of a machine that alienates us from interacting with the world directly, coercing us into depressed repetitive lives, chasing false images of dreams on the other side of a screen. The port’s everyday function forces us into dependency on violent global systems to support ourselves, stripping our autonomy to care for and provide for one another. The port is built on stolen Squaxin/Nisqually land; the systems of exchange that the port facilitates and the values that this exchange reinforces continue to perpetrate genocide against indigenous peoples.”

The flier continued to connect these issues to the crowds strong anti-police attitude, saying “The police protect those who poison the water and continue the colonial project. Without the police to repress struggles against fossil fuel extraction, this hellworld would be unable to continue. Without the police, there would be no port.”

This all followed a very different daytime event organized by the Olympia IWW (Industrial Workers of the World or Wobblies), in Sylvester Park. They held a community festival with food, speakers, poetry and music from 12 until 5 p.m. Community members such as Lenee Reid, Nomy Lamm, and Kaitlyn Smith were featured as speakers at the event.

The daytime festival in Sylvester Park began with a picnic and open mic, in which members of the local IWW chapter spoke on why the union is important to them and how it has affected their lives in a positive way. Free food was also provided by Food Not Bombs, and other groups such as Olympia Assembly and Socialist Alternative had tables set up in the park to share information and get people involved. Olympia’s Really Free Market also held a pop-up shop, where community members could take and give away what they please. The event ended with a community sing-along to Pete Seeger’s rendition of “Solidarity Forever” before cleaning up. Overall the events in the park promoted a sense of community and solidarity with workers.

“Our current condition cannot be taken for granted—people fought for the rights and dignities we enjoy today, and there is still a lot more to fight for. The sacrifices of so many people can not be forgotten or we will end up fighting for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day” The IWW states on the flier for this festival.

May Day in America is traced back to the labor movement of the 1860s,  when striking workers clashed with police,  in the famous Chicago Haymarket affair. The holiday, celebrated elsewhere as “international workers day” has deep anarchist and communist roots.

Peter Linebaugh, author of The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day gives a rich description of older, but equally rebellious origins of mayday festivities, writing, “The farmers, workers, and child-bearers (laborers) of the Middle Ages had hundreds of holy days which preserved the May Green, despite the attack on peasants and witches. Despite the complexities, whether May Day was observed by sacred or profane ritual, by pagan or Christian, by magic or not, by straights or gays, by gentle or calloused hands, it was always a celebration of all that is free and life-giving in the world.”

This celebratory spirit was echoed in a report back posted anonymously on Puget Sound Anarchists that said “In the course of an hour we experienced intense joy, desperate fear, and profound sadness… We sent out signals of disorder and showed that the facades of capital—of the Port’s world—are not invulnerable to our rage. We honored the memory of the Haymarket Martyrs and the rebellious spirit of May Day. Let this be a lesson in the power of solidarity and passion.” This attitude was also heard in the cheers and shouts of simply “MAYDAY!” as the first bank window cracked.