Bellingham celebrated International Workers’ Day, commonly known as May Day, with a march of around 200 people that went from City Hall and ended at Cornwall Park for a picnic, free of charge.
Marchers chanted “No racism, no class, it’s time to kick some ass,” and “One solution, revolution,” and sung the union anthem “Solidarity Forever.”
The Whatcom Skagit Industrial Workers of the World organized the march, in collaboration with Familias Unidas por la Justicia, Washington State Labor Council, Community to Community Development, Western’s Blue Group, and several other Western students and community members.
Clara Everbeck is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World.
“We’re trying to bring people from across the working class, of all races, genders, sexualities and national origins to stand up for workers’ rights in general,” Everbeck said.
May Day honors those who gave their lives in the fight for better working conditions, Everbeck said. She said the Industrial Workers of the World is a labor union for workers of all trades and industries, including students.
“I think students are in a privileged position in the economy,” Everbeck said. “There are many people who don’t have the opportunities to get that full education that can give them a better place in the class system.”
One Western student who participated was senior Alexander McIntyre.
“I’m here to stand in solidarity mainly with the undocumented immigrants,” McIntyre said. “I feel like if we really want to make Bellingham as diverse and inclusive as possible we need to include everybody and make sure their voices are being heard.”
McIntyre said the City Council ruling addressing immigration enforcement and status was not enough.
“In all reality, it’s failing to meet the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities here, and so that’s ultimately why I keep on attending these marches,” McIntyre said.
The march is an example of how varying social justice groups can come together for worker rights, Brenda Bentley, a volunteer with Community to Community, said.
“That’s the wonderful thing about these grassroots, community-based groups… they all have ties and support each other, so there’s a good network,” Bentley said.
Edgar Franks with Community to Community Development participated in the march.
“I wanted to be in solidarity with the other workers,” Franks said. “I wanted to show up and support [the International Workers of the World], they’ve been supporting farmworkers and immigrants for a long time, so I wanted to show up for them when they needed us.”
People gathered in front of City Hall at 3:30 p.m. for a rally. Victoria Matey of Western’s Blue Group, an International Workers of the World march organizer, and Freddie Lane of Lummi Nation spoke to the crowd.
“I want you to understand that unauthorized workers are kind of the bottom of the Jenga [tower], and if you pull that out, it’s completely going to collapse,” Matey said.
The march began around 4:15 p.m. and went from City Hall, around Railroad Avenue, and up Meridian Street to Cornwall Park.
Near the intersection of Meridian Street and Squalicum Way, one person in the line of traffic behind the march got out of their car and was yelling for the marchers to get off the road.
Following the march, people gathered for food and music at Cornwall Park around 5:30 p.m. Ramon Torres, from Familias Unidas por la Justicia, invited everyone to participate in the March for Dignity on Sunday, May 7. The march, which spans 17 miles, begins at the Lynden Fairgrounds at 7 a.m. and finishes at Maritime Park.
Dignity vigils and dignity dialogues
Before the march, Community to Community and Western’s Blue Group held their most recent dignity vigil at 11:30 a.m. in front of Bellingham City Hall. The vigils acknowledge those who have been detained and bring attention to the sanctuary city ordinance that activist groups feel is ineffective in protecting vulnerable people in the city.
“[The ordinance] is worded very loosely, and it’s open up to interpretation and therefore to abuse,” Bentley said. “The vigils will always be every Monday until the ordinances are tightened up, and we actually get a true sanctuary city.”
The vigils are held regularly every Monday at 5 p.m. in front of Bellingham City Hall. Community to Community is also hosting dignity dialogues, which give community members the chance to learn about the ordinance and further community action.