To the streets for May Day 2013

Update: Facebook Event

This year Bristol Trades Council is pulling out all the stops and attempting to throw their biggest May Day March in years.  Whilst they may not have said it themselves, we’d like to think the effort of everyone who got involved with the 1st of May Group last year and the success of our demos, actions, and saturday march is what inspired them!

We have a lot of respect for trade unions, their members have been at the forefront of many working class struggles for almost as long as their has been a working class.  Despite the repression of the 1970s unions still hold a lot of potential for helping to organise mass action.

However far too often they are held back by the bureaucrats at the top who have lost touch with the rank and file militants pushing for more action. Mainstream unions can find themselves caught up in red tape they are unwilling to risk pushing through, and are often unable to move their focus beyond their narrow memberships.  If we are to make a difference and show our collective strength on May Day (and beyond) we need more than just our unions on the streets, so we’re putting out the following call to join them on May the Fourth:

To the Streets for May Day !
May Day  has been celebrated as international workers day since 1890, it is a time to remember our collective history, and those that fought and died of to win us the 8 hour day, safety at work, and much else that it’s all to easy to take for granted. It is also a time to reignite and unite the present struggles for a better world.

For May Day 2013, Unions in Bristol are calling for a March Against Austerity. We are calling for a Radical Block to march with them, so come and join us on the streets if you are;

Mad – at the government which continues to attack societies most vulnerable for the benefit of no one other than themselves (and their rich mates).
Angry – that the costs of living are going up and your boss won’t pay you more.
Frustrated – that your working conditions are being destroyed and the bureaucrats at the top of your union don’t seem up for the fight your fellow workers are ready for.
Worried – that if we don’t do something soon there will be no NHS or decent education left for your children.
Bored – with the latest lies from the politicians and press you’re expected to believe.
Inspired – by the courage of those that have gone before us, who have fought against exploitation, and won us all victories which last to his day.
Optimisticabout creating a society that can meet all our needs and seek an end to; sexism, racism, transphobia, ableism, ageism, homophobia, and the many other oppressive and destructive ways in which we are divided.

So grab your red flag, your black flag, your pirate flag or no flag at all and get together at 11am, Saturday the 4th of May on College Green to take to the streets of Bristol, and rekindle the spirit of resistance!

Some of Bristol First of May Group

Leave a comment if you want to know more or get involved!

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Noise Demo Hits Hinkly Supplier Hydrock

For the fifth day of the week of action for May Day, South West Against Nuclear (SWAN), Bristol Stop Hinkley C along with members of the Bristol First of May Group, held a noise demo against Hydrock due to their involvement with Hinkley Point, Somerset’s nuclear power station.

From 12:30pm, once everyone had been shuttled from the nearby bus stop in Almondsbury, 8 miles from Bristol, to Over Court Barns, Over Lane, people began protesting with megaphones, pans, instruments, cymbols and other objects to make noise with. Within a few minutes a police van pulled up as workers nervously peeked through blinds while neighbours said they supported the disruption due to Hydrock’s land destruction in the local area. No doubt to the disappointment of Hydrcok and the cops!

While using the sirens to good use along with a generally loud atmosphere, police with cameras attempted to takes photo’s, but continually failed as our banner was routinely used to block their vision. This resulted in them using Hydrock’s car park to take pictures from, but still to no avail due to some quick blocking.

After 2 hours, with delivery vehicles being turned away, reception finally disconnecting their intercom and their signs written on (naughty!) we called it a day, making sure to remind them of the consequences of dealing with a new nuclear industry and why we’d be back.

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New Events for May Day

New events for may day have been added!

Bristol Radical History Group are giving a talk on the story behind May Day; anarchists, executions and the international struggle for the eight hour day.  It will take place from 6pm at Hydra Books, Old Market,  with cakes and zapatistsa coffee on sale.  See the Facebook Event and invite your friends along.

Also since the week of events in Bristol rounds up on the saturday, why not head out to the antinuclear picnic on sunday? Possibly the last chance you (or anyone) will have to enjoy the countryside and public footpaths before french energy giant EDF turns the area into europes biggest building site – for a reactor they don’t have planning permission for. See the facebook page for details.

Click over to our events page to see all the other things happening this week, see you in the streets, and since its just clicked over to midnight  happy international workers day everyone!



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Number for Workfare Flashmob & Updated Flyer

The anti-workfare flash mob will be taking place at 12.30pm on Thursday 3rd of May.  You will need to be in the centre (near the galleries) at 12.15pm and call this number  07930311065 to find out the details of the target!

If possible get hold of a prison outfit (black&white stripes, arrows, orange jump suit etc) or bring banners/placards/flags/just yourself!

We’ve also uploaded an updated flyer for the Reclaim the Beach view/download it here.

Last but not least, our final meeting before may day is this friday 7pm at the Stag&Hounds on old market, come on down if you can!

Remember to check the facebook event, twitter, and this blog for regular updates.

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Final Details for May Day Action!

Plans have changed, decisions have been made, more folks have got involved and we’re now going to have a whole week of actions and protests in Bristol to celebrate May Day, leading up to a large march and action on Saturday the 5th.
The following is a diverse range of events representing many struggles, or as we see it many facets of the same struggle; against oppression for a free and just society.

Also the next meeting of Bristol May First Group is this Friday 27th of April, 7pm upstairs at the stag & hounds on Old Market. Likely to be our last before May Day!

#BristolMayDay & Facebook

Monday April 30th
Anti Vivisection(animal testing) Noise Demo, meet 12pm at the Bear Pit in the centre (to move on to a target). Bring things to make some NOISE.

Tuesday May 1st
Mass call in sick or otherwise skip work/school day Since the state refuses to give us may 1st off, we should take it ourselves.

Possible morning action against the criminalisation of squatting TBC/stay tuned!

Spreading May Day Meet 3pm by the fountains in the centre to raise peoples concsiousness about May Day! Stalls, leaflets, chats, and some fun & food as well.

Wednesday May 2nd
Picket ATOS Help fight back against the governments attacks on people with disabilities. ATOS is the company paid to take away disabled peoples benefits! We shall be handing out advice leaflets to those attending interviews, and protesting against ATS. 2pm at Flowers Hill in Brislington.

Thursday May 3rd
Anti-Workfare Flash Mob! Be around the Centre of town at 12.30 then call our hotline or drop us a text in advance to find the target (number will be released nearer the time). Bring Prison clothes (or warden outfits) and prepare for some theatric direct action!

Friday May 4th
South West Against Nuclear Demonstration against a local supplier to the proposed new nuclear power station at hinkley.  It will take place at midday at over court barns, Almondsbury(BS32 4DF), which can be reached by Bus (309 from bristol centre), train (patchway station), bike (8 miles from Bristol),  or contact SWAN for lift shares from Bristol swanactive[at]

Saturday May 5th – the big one!
May Day March against the destruction of the NHS!  Organised with the Bristol & District Anti Cuts Alliance with union support (aswell as with us crazy mayday folks). Gather from 11am on college green.

Reclaim the beach  Our bosses steal our time, the corporations steal our spaces and the state steals our holiday and hides our histroy! Its time for the workers to take it all back, beneath on top of the streets lies the beach.  Meet at the end of the anticuts march (12:30ish college green) and reclaim the streets of bristol. Bring hawaiian shirts, bermududa shorts, deck chairs, palm trees, BBQs and prepare for some anti-capitalist fun.

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Get onboard with Bristol May Day

Less than two weeks to go untill the mayday week of action begins!

There are local meetings in southmead and bedminster coming up (and one took place tonight in fishponds) focusing on the NHS and the larger demo on the saturday. See the events page for details.

We’re also having our fifth may first group meeting tomorrow come on down to get invovled as we finalise our plans for the big day, and add your own thoughts into the mix (details).

Theres lots more going on so get invovled, and we’ll see you down the pub, at the library and in the streets soon!

ps cheers to co-mutiny who’s picture we have lovingly ripped off =)

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Reclaim The Beach Flyer

First draft for our exciting afternoon May day action is here: Continue reading

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Latest goings on!

Since the first May Day meeting in Bristol its been a hectic few weeks.  Things however are starting to come together, different people are meeting up each week to plan days of action, commemoration and celebration to mark May Day.

With plans falling into place for actions on both the Tuesday (May 1st) and Saturday (May 5th) our focus is now  on the following areas;

Publicity – focusing speaking to and leafleting  (leaflets to be finished Wednesday) as many people in Bristol as possible, as well as other ways of spreading the May Day message.

Weds2nd-Fri4th – more events to mark May Day (no marches, we’ll have enough walking/running around on the tuesday and saturday!). We would love for some of Bristols Campaign groups to plan actions in this time which we can link together and join in with .

Your crazy Idea here – Theres still time (just!) and plenty of energy for taking on exciting new anti capitalist ideas, so share them with us.

The next meeting is on Thursday (12th April) at 7.30pm,  Upstairs at the Stag & Hounds on Old Market.  Details of the next meetings and anything else you can get involved with are on the events page.

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History of May Day

Too few people know why May Day became International Workers Day and why we should still commemorate it. It  began over a century ago when the American Federation of Labour adopted a historic resolution which asserted that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labour from and after May 1st, 1886”.

In the months prior to this thousands of workers were drawn into the struggle for the shorter day. Skilled and unskilled, black and white, men and women, native and immigrant were all becoming involved.

In Chicago alone 400,000 were out on strike. A newspaper of that city reported that “no smoke curled up from the tall chimneys of the factories and mills, and things had assumed a Sabbath-like appearance”.  Due to the work of committed revolutionaries Chicago made the biggest contribution to the eight-hour movement.

When on May 1st 1886, the eight hour strikes convulsed that city, one half of the workforce at the McCormick Harvester Co. came out. Two days later a mass meeting was held by 6,000 members of the ‘lumber shovers’ union who had also come out. The meeting was held near the McCormick plant and was joined by 500 of the McCormick strikers.

The workers listened to a speech by the anarchist August Spies, who has been asked to address the meeting by the Central Labour Union. While Spies was speaking, urging the workers to stand together and not give in to the bosses, the strikebreakers were beginning to leave the nearby McCormick plant.

The strikers, (from McCormick and the ‘lumber shovers’) marched down the street to the nearby plant. Suddenly a force of 200 police arrived and, without any warning, attacked the crowd with clubs and guns. They killed at least one striker, seriously wounded five or six others and injured an many more.

Outraged by the brutal assaults, Spies called on the workers of Chicago to attend a protest meeting the following night.

The protest meeting took place in Haymarket Square and was addressed by Spies and two other anarchists active in the trade union movement, Albert Parsons and Samuel Fielden.

The police attack
Throughout the speeches the crowd was orderly. Mayor Carter Harrison, who was present from the beginning of the meeting, concluded that “nothing looked likely to happen to require police interference”. He advised police captain John Bonfield of this and suggested that the large force of police reservists waiting at the station house be sent home.

It was close to ten in the evening when Fielden was closing the meeting. It was raining heavily and only about 200 people remained in the square. Suddenly a police column of 180 men, headed by Bonfield, moved in and ordered the people to disperse immediately. Fielden protested “we are peaceable”.
At this moment a bomb was thrown into the ranks of the police. It killed one, and seriously wounded atleast six others. The police opened fire on the strikers. How many were killed and wounded by the police was never ascertained, but in the ensuing choas many police were hit by ‘friendly fire’.

A reign of terror swept over Chicago. The press and the church called for revenge, insisting the bomb was the work of socialists and anarchists. Meeting halls, union offices, printing works and private homes were raided. All known socialists and anarchists were rounded up. Even many individuals ignorant of the meaning of socialism and anarchism were arrested and tortured. “Make the raids first and look up the law afterwards” was the public statement of Julius Grinnell, the state’s attorney.

Eventually eight men stood trial for being “accessories to murder”. They were Spies, Fielden, Parsons, and five other anarchists who were influential in the labour movement, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Michael Schwab, Louis Lingg and Oscar Neebe.

The trial opened on June 21st 1886 in the criminal court of Cooke County. The candidates for the jury were not chosen in the usual manner of drawing names from a box. In this case a special bailiff, nominated by state’s attorney Grinnell, was appointed by the court to select the candidates. Before the trial evening began the bailiff publicly claimed “I am managing this case and I know what I am about. These fellows are going to be hanged as certain as death”.

Rigged jury
The eventual composition of the jury was farcical; being made up of businessmen, their clerks and a relative of one of the dead policemen. No proof was offered by the state that any of the eight men before the court had thrown the bomb, had been connected with its throwing, or had even approved of such acts. In fact, only three of the eight had been in Haymarket Square that evening.

No evidence was offered that any of the speakers had incited violence, indeed in his evidence at the trial Mayor Harrison described the speeches as “tame”. No proof was offered that any violence had been contemplated. In fact, Parsons had brought his two small children to the meeting.
That the eight were on trial for their anarchist beliefs and trade union activities was made clear. The trial closed with the final words of Attorney Grinnell’s. “Law is on trial. Anarchy is on trial. These men have been selected, picked out by the Grand Jury, and indicted because they were leaders. There are no more guilty than the thousands who follow them. Gentlemen of the jury; convict these men, make examples of them, hang them and you save our institutions, our society.”

On August 19th seven of the defendants were sentenced to death, and Neebe to 15 years in prison. After a massive international campaign for their release, the state ‘compromised’ and commuted the sentences of Schwab and Fielden to life imprisonment. Lingg cheated the hangman by committing suicide in his cell the day before the executions. On November 11th 1887 Parsons, Engel, Spies and Fischer were hanged.

600,000 working people turned out for their funeral. The campaign to free Neebe, Schwab and Fielden continued.

On June 26th 1893 Governor Altgeld set them free. He made it clear he was not granting the pardon because he thought the men had suffered enough, but because they were innocent of the crime for which they had been tried. They and the hanged men had been the victims of “hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge”.

The authorities had believed at the time of the trial that such persecution would break the back of the eight-hour movement. Indeed, evidence later came to light that the bomb may have been thrown by a police agent working for Captain Bonfield, as part of a conspiracy involving certain steel bosses to discredit the labour movement.

When Spies addressed the court after he had been sentenced to die, he was confident that this conspiracy would not succeed. “If you think that by hanging us you can stamp out the labour movement… the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil in misery and want, expect salvation – if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here you will tread on a spark, but there and there, behind you – and in front of you, and everywhere, flames blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out”.

Public holiday
In 1889, the first congress of the Second International, called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests. May Day was formally recognized as an annual event at the International’s second congress in 1891.

In 1904, the International Socialist Conference meeting in Amsterdam called on “all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on May First for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.”

In many countries, the working classes sought to make May Day an official holiday, and their efforts largely succeeded. May Day has long been a focal point for demonstrations by various socialist, communist and anarchist groups.

It is a time to remember that without the sacrafices of people such as those in Haymarket we would not have many of the things we now take for granted: like the eight hour day, paid holiday or safe working conditions.

It is a time to remember that everything we have has been won through struggle. That we must continue to fight not just to keep what we have but to win back more of what the bosses and the state steal from us.

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