Reclaiming May Day & Reviving Radical Activism: report from SF

Tom Boland (
Fri, 21 May 1999 05:37:01 -0700 (PDT)

FWD 6 May 1999  CC Replies to author "Chris Crass" <>

So here is my run down on May Day in San Francisco, feel free to repost it.
-chris crass


On May 1st in San Francisco thousands of activists and dozens of labor,
community, artist and activists groups Reclaimed May Day.

There was a huge free picnic put on by Art and Revolution folx and SF and
East Bay Food Not Bombs. Excellent food was shared with over 3000 people
which included cooked-on-the-spot veggie stir-fry, four different kinds of
salads (green, bean, pasta and potato), bread, fruit, and vegan brownies
(we rocked out!).

There was a large may pole (over twenty five feet) and the reclaiming
(pagan) collective did a whole ritual around spring and people danced and
played music for about 30-45 minutes around the may pole.

There was a poetry/spoken word stage set up by a local poet that works with
youth speaks and it was a good, multiracial, high-energy activity that
attracted anywhere from 30-300 people throughout the day.

The main activities happened on a large stage where almost a dozen groups
did theatre pieces, dance routines, sang labor songs and/or played folk
music retelling the stories of past struggles.  There was a play by the SF
Mime Troupe about gentrification, chain-stores and poverty in SF, there was
an amazing pagent by Art and Revolution about time/work, the struggle for
the 8 hour day, and the haymarket martyrs who are remembered on May Day -
they had large (12 ft.) puppets of the four martyrs who were hung and
actually did a reinactment of the hanging.  During the art and rev
performance there must have been atleast 2000 people watching.  Art and Rev
finished their piece by burning a large (10 by 6ft) sign that read "bosses,
landlords and government" and then kicked off a march against
gentrification through the Mission District of SF.  The march went to the
Gap chain store and a large puppet head (10ft.) of Gap CEO Donald Fisher
was pied.  The march went through the neighborhood with over 1000 people,
dozens of puppets (including the Haymarket martyrs), dozens of beautiful
flags and drummers keeping the tempo up.

There were lots of info tables set up in the park by the Industrial Workers
of the World, Earth First, Food Not Bombs, and various anarchist and
progressive groups.

The event got excellent media coverage on the radio and in print - with a
great article in the Sunday paper about the revival of May Day.  Several
days prior to the Reclaim May Day event, the Gaurdian (the weekly
progressive in the Bay Area) ran a feature on the revival of May Day,
radical politics and the state of unions as more and more immigrants
organize and as people of color and women increasingly organize in the

In short, the day long event made one proud to be an anarchist as the
principles of cooperation and mutual aid were practiced, as creativity and
vitality energized the activites and as direct action and mass mobilization
confronted corporate power and the devestation of capitalism on our

  vegetarian, nonviolence, consensus
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