From Asia to Europe to the U.S., Tuesday's May Day marches were less a celebration of workers' rights and more an expression of national moods. From gloom to optimism to celebration, here is a look:
From Asia to Europe to the U.S., Tuesday’s May Day marches were less a celebration of workers’ rights and more an expression of national moods. From gloom to optimism to celebration, here is a look:
SPAIN: Deep gloom.
Tens of thousands of Spanish protesters joined demonstrations, weary after two years of deep spending cuts and tax hikes, sky-high unemployment and no end in sight to austerity. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is trying desperately to cut a bloated deficit, restore investor confidence and fend off fears that Spain will need an international bailout. “I am here because there is no future for the young people of this country,” said Adriana Jaime, a 25-year-old marcher.
In France, tens of thousands of workers, leftists and union members held boisterous rallies ahead of presidential elections Sunday that a Socialist is expected to win for the first time since 1988. Many voters fear incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy will erode France’s welfare and see him as too friendly with the wealthy. “Sarkozy has allowed himself for too long to manhandle the lower classes,” said 24-year-old Dante Leonardi. “Today we must show … that we want him to leave.”
The mood was subdued in Greece, where more than 2,000 people marched through downtown Athens after nearly three years of sharp economic pain. Adding to the uncertainty: No party is expected to secure a governing majority in the election, and it remains unclear whether squabbling party leaders will be able to strike a power-sharing deal.
THE PHILIPPINES: Anger.
In the capital, Manila, more than 8,000 members of a labor alliance marched to a heavily barricaded bridge near the Malacanang presidential palace, which teemed with thousands of riot police. Other left-wing workers burned a huge effigy of President Benigno Aquino III, depicting him as a lackey of the United States and big business.
Thousands of Tunisians marked May Day by reveling in the new freedoms won from their Arab Spring revolution. May Day gatherings were tightly controlled in previous years under the rule of the country’s autocratic president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. But this time, people were free to celebrate. Some 25,000 revelers – from union members to Islamists to whole families – poured onto the capital’s main thoroughfare. The crowd appeared to be even larger than the one that flooded Avenue Bourguiba on Jan. 14, 2011, the day Ben Ali flew into exile in Saudi Arabia.
UNITED STATES: Reviving a movement.
The anti-Wall Street groups collectively known as the Occupy Movement planned demonstrations, strikes and acts of civil disobedience across the nation. In New York City, the birthplace of the movement, organizers called for picket lines and a march through Manhattan, as well as blocking one or more bridges or tunnels connecting the city’s economic engine to New Jersey and elsewhere. In Los Angeles, at least a half-dozen rallies were planned. In Atlanta, immigration activists rallied against a law targeting illegal immigration enacted last year. Rallies were also planned in Chicago and Minneapolis.
Around 100,000 people – including President Dmitry Medvedev and President-elect Vladimir Putin – marched in Moscow to support the government. The two leaders happily chatted with participants and many banners criticized Russia’s opposition movement. One read “Spring has come, the swamp has dried up,” referring to Bolotnaya (Swampy) Square, the site of some of the largest opposition demonstrations.
Government workers marched on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office in downtown Ottawa to protest budget cuts, the elimination of thousands of jobs and proposed tuition hikes. In Toronto, Members of Occupy Toronto say they are planning an evening march to an as yet undisclosed “re-occupation” site, which they plan to take over for 24 hours. Activists urged people to call in sick Tuesday and attend the events.