What you need to know about today’s May Day rallies

Today is an especially significant day in the Black Lives Matter movement as labor leaders join in solidarity on May Day, an event usually reserved for rallying around workers’ rights and immigration issues. Here’s what’s bringing the two movements—not so different in their goals—together:

What are the origins of May Day? 

May Day commemorates Chicago’s Haymarket Riot of 1886 when striking laborers gathered peacefully to call for an eight-hour workday. The rally turned deadly following a bombing that killed an estimated 11 people and wounded dozens of others.

What are the goals of the modern day labor movement? 

Luckily, we now have the eight-hour workday, but the fight for workers’ rights is still far from over. In recent years, the movement’s focus has changed to include the fight for a higher minimum wage, one that would rise to meet the living wage standard, and greater protection for immigrants coming to the U.S. for work.

What is currently driving the Black Lives Matter movement?

While the movement is driven by a long and disturbing trend of systematic racism and brutality against young black men, a lot of attention is on Baltimore where protesters have taken to the streets seeking answers on the spinal injury and subsequent death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in police custody. And today, the city’s state attorney, Marilyn J. Mosby, announced that she has probable cause and that homicide charges will be filed against the six police officers that held Freddie Gray in custody.

What connects the Black Lives Matter movement and the labor movement? 

In an interview with the Associated Press, activist Miguel Paredes hit the nail on the head, saying “It is important to support movements and struggles that stand up for people being singled out by the system. Right now, immigrants share that distinction with African-American youth, that we are being targeted by the system.” Additionally, being more inclusive and standing up for the rights of members of another movement ultimately strengthens both movements.

What about rallies in other countries?

Since its inception, May Day rallies have spread around the world with observations taking place from Guatemala to Bahrain. Of note are those in Istanbul, Turkey where police have reportedly resorted to using tear gas and water cannons to keep protesters from reaching the historic Taksim Square, the site of violent protests in 1977 that left 34 people dead. To see pictures from Labor Day rallies around the world, check out this moving slideshow at The Guardian.

(Images via via via)