Protesters from various workers’ rights and immigrants’ rights organizations met at Union Square for a May Day rally on Monday evening.
May 1, a spring holiday, is also the day chosen as International Workers Day to commemorate the Chicago workers strike of 1886. President Trump declared the day “Loyalty Day,” a time for Americans to reaffirm their commitment to “individual liberties, to limited government and to the inherent dignity of every human being.”
Loyalty to the flag was the main rallying cry of counterprotester Jovi Val, who was corralled across the street along with a few others decorated in “Make America Great Again” hats and pins.
“Forget about Antifa [anti-fascists]. That group of roaches right there needs to scatter because this is the light right here,” Val said, gesturing to the flag in his hands. “This is the light.”
Val, who did not vote for Donald Trump, questioned the legitimacy of the “-phobic” label used so often in describing Trump supporters.
“My mother is arachnophobic,” the Brooklyn resident said. “If I throw a spider on her, she’ll freak out. But they’re calling us homophobic, Islamophobics. I’ve shook hands with gays. I’ve shook hands with people that are Islam or Muslim.”
The interview with Val was interrupted by a Union Square protester who yelled that we should not interview “the fascists.”
“F— you, you f—ing clown!” Val screamed as the man’s back disappeared into the crowd. “You’re a clown, kid! Get out of here with your transgender beard or whatever the f— it is.”
Despite calling the rally an attack on free speech, Val invited the man, who had crossed the street, to debate him.
The focus in Union Square was very much on migrant workers, anti-imperialism and, for Josh Romey, a member of the Socialist Party, a path to citizenship, socialized health care and affordable housing for New Yorkers.
“We don’t feel that the two capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans, can fulfill, even if sometimes it’s lip service from the Democrats, these things,” Romey said. “The Socialist Party isn’t really interested in pressuring the politicians to, in their beneficence, give us this or that policy, so we believe in building political power and realizing these things ourselves.”
Susan Gardner, who has been protesting for 75 years — through the civil rights era, the Vietnam War and now President Trump — said this year’s May Day rally is very much about No. 45.
“I have hope, but I think things are accelerating so fast … that before the reforms can actually take place, it might be too late,” she said.
Her husband, Bruce Brooks, is less hopeful. “We shouldn’t have to do this,” he said over the shouts of rally cries from a nearby bullhorn. “I’ve been to more rallies in the last six months than during the entire Vietnam War.”
The march was endorsed by the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council and self-identified anarchist John (last name withheld) had clear, actionable requests for America.
John suggested ending “very active racism,” especially in the Justice Department, avoiding buying from corporations like Wal-Mart and respecting your fellow humans.
“It’s a very big thing. If somebody is trans or somebody is this or that, it doesn’t f—ing affect you. Just respect your fellow man,” John said. “People of color, f—ing respect them. And also, just realize that whoever you are, you are privileged on some level, well, almost no matter who you are. You can’t work against it; you were born into it. Work with your comrades and allies to counter it and help them out as well as yourself.”
People at the rally said there were at least two arrests at Union Square and three at an earlier march through Grand Central after protesters toppled tables and chairs along the march route, but a spokesman from the NYPD said he was unable to confirm those reports.