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Hamilton Mayday Reportback 2013

An Epic Year for The Hammer's Mayday Festivities!

by M1 Committee

Mayday Anti-capitalist March
Mayday Anti-capitalist March
James Street is Ours!
James Street is Ours!
Mayday in the Hammer
Mayday in the Hammer
Lee Reed & Co. at Mayday Blockparty
Lee Reed & Co. at Mayday Blockparty

Hamilton rebels took to the streets on May 1st in a rowdy anti-capitalist demo that snaked its way through the downtown core and foiled police efforts to put a leash on Mayday celebrations. This march represents a notable escalation in the Hamilton Police Service’s response to protests, but more importantly in our ability to out-manoeuvre and confront their bullshit. Mayday is rapidly taking a new form in this city, and while the (relatively young) M1 Committee stands in solidarity with Hamilton unions who have maintained this important tradition throughout the years, we also strive to push Mayday celebrations beyond sleepy east-end marches.

After congregating at the MacNab bus terminal downtown, more than 100 of us took to the streets equipped with colourful banners, a giant paper-mache fist, and a shopping-cart sound system that shook the very concrete beneath our feet. Two blocks into the march, we were confronted with a line of horse-cops intent on blocking us from turning up James Street and into the financial headquarters of the city. After a few minutes of scuffling, we opted to abandon our planned route and instead use parking lots, alleys, and spontaneity to our advantage. The po-po were steadfast in their mission to keep us away from James Street (read: the banks), but at several intersections we were able to sneak by their roadblocks. At one point, we executed a daring 180° turn-around of the march to evade their front lines and spill onto James. Yip yip!

The police were aggressive in their tactics, but despite the press of bumpers on our legs, the scrape of bike tires on our calves, and the humidity of horse-breath on our necks, the energy of the march stayed positive and upbeat. By many accounts, it was Hamilton's most confrontational demo in ages, and points to an upsurge of radical, recalcitrant energy in the city. Though we still have a great deal to learn about how to get properly funky in the streets the way that folks in Montreal or Santiago have been known to, there seems to be a growing momentum in Hamilton towards creative, energetic, and confrontational actions. Many of us are happy to see the age of tame, placard waving protests wane, and to watch a culture of radical resistance flourish.

Along the way, the demo stopped outside of a temp agency and a pay-day loan centre to call out the injustices that these businesses perpetuate, and raise awareness about the destructive impacts they have on our city.

The march ended at Beasley Park, where the sound of Taylor Swift and the sight of rowdy and passionate people caused teachers to rush their students inside ("Ahmed! Stop dancing this instant and get inside!"). Unfortunately, the cops weren't quite done stroking their powerful egos for the day and decided to harass the dispersing crowd and issue hundreds of dollars in dubious traffic tickets. One participant received a $300 fine for “smoking in a public place”. As the crowd videotaped and mocked the police for their petty and reprehensible behaviour, a hat was passed around to raise money for a ticket that wasn't even done being written. This brilliant demonstration of mutual aid reveals the sincerity and beauty of the crowd that marched in the streets that day, and offers a fleeting glimpse of the sort of world towards which we strive.

While many people from the demo opted to head east and join the Hamilton Steelworkers for their union march, others stuck around to set up for an evening block party in Beasley Park. For the second year in a row hundreds of local residents joined us for a celebration of community strength and solidarity. Decorations, distro-tables, food tables, barbeques and a stage with a dope sound system added to the already diverse range of activities that occur in the park daily. While a small team barbequed and served over 300 halal hot dogs on one side of the park, nearby Hamilton Food Not Bombs served an incredible buffet of gourmet, vegetarian dishes that left everybody moaning in delight. Musicians Lee Reed, Mother Tareka and Emmay, as well as dub poet Klyde Broox, played for a sun-bathed park full of people, while a posse of kids (now free from the gaze of nervous teachers) rallied around the stage to dance and make their voices heard. Many of them remembered last year's Mayday block party, and came out early to help us decorate and set up.

The police stayed away from the block party, perhaps having exhausted their supply of tickets earlier in the day. 

The sorts of harassment and abuse that we experienced from the boys in blue earlier that day are status quo for the daily lives of many of these North End residents, and so our politics often require little explanation in these neighbourhoods. Though many of the people who came out to the block party do not sport  black flags or call themselves “anarchists”, they often have a better understanding of inequality and injustice than those who do. Furthermore, the sorts of resistance that happen everyday in the community centres, parks, mosques, and homes of the Beasley Neighbourhood are no less brave or important than the actions of those who pushed back against police lines earlier in the day. Mayday is a day to celebrate all the ways we find to fight back against systems of oppression! It is with a great deal of humility and gratitude that M1 celebrates Mayday with the people of this community who, in many ways, are on the front lines of radical resistance in Hamilton.

We’re looking forward to a season of untameable and unprecedented resistance this coming summer.

Until next year,
-M1

 


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hamiltonm1c (Hamilton M1 Committee)
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