National dialogue on immigration and criticism over how the Trump administration has addressed the issue will propel Wednesday’s May Day events, an annual day of mostly peaceful protests and celebrations to recognize workers’ rights.
For the 20th year, May Day in Seattle will feature a March for Immigrant and Workers Rights, which begins with a rally at Judkins Park, 2150 S. Norman St., at noon.
An hour later, the May 1 Action Committee for El Comité will lead a march to the federal courthouse in downtown Seattle.
Participants will begin in the Central District, then pass Seattle University and Seattle Central College before ending in downtown.
In years past, May Day has been marred by self-proclaimed anarchists and far-right activists who have clashed with police and damaged property. However, last year’s May Day was marked by a peaceful march and little mayhem.
Police in 2018 arrested a single protester — a man who threw a rock at the Amazon Spheres near the company’s headquarters. No property damage was reported by police.
In 2017, two opposite groups — one showing support for President Donald Trump and another against him — briefly clashed at Seattle’s Westlake Park downtown before sharing a “peace joint.”
A spokesperson for the Office of Economic Development said the city has not received any other permit applications from groups planning May Day events.
While the Puget Sound Anarchists have encouraged activists to join in protest in Portland “to oppose the inhumane detention of the migrant community,” they have not yet publicized an event in Seattle.
A group calling itself Emerald City Antifa has alerted its members on Facebook that groups associated with Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys are planning an “anti-communist” protest from 4 to 6 p.m. in Westlake Park.
Seattle Police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said there will be “plenty of uniformed police officers on hand” during May Day events.
He also said people should expect traffic congestion due to the march.
“We are asking people to consider alternative commute plans by leaving earlier, leaving later or using transit and remaining flexible throughout the day.”
Jorge Quiroga, an organizer with El Comité, said the purpose of this year’s march is to call attention to immigrants arriving from Latin America.
Last year’s event drew fewer people than in years past. Quiroga suspected that negative rhetoric around immigrants may suppress turnout again this year.
“A lot of people have expressed being afraid and fear deportation,” he said.
The origins of May Day stem from Chicago’s Haymarket riots of 1886, when industrial workers went on strike in demand of an eight-hour workday.
Since then, groups across the country advocating on behalf of workers have used the day to demonstrate for better wages and working conditions. In recent years, groups have capitalized on the day to advocate for improvements to the immigration system.