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Salt Lake City celebrates May Day, despite police harassment

By staff |
April 30, 2018
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International Workers Day marked in Salt Lake City.
International Workers Day marked in Salt Lake City. (Fight Back! News / Staff)

Salt Lake City, UT – Shouts of “Stand up! Fight back!” echoed off the buildings of downtown Salt Lake City April 28 as more than 40 people gathered to celebrate working-class victories on May Day.

Groups from across the Salt Lake Valley came to participate in the event hosted by the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), including the Rose Park Brown Berets, Students for a Democratic Society, and Utah Against Police Brutality.

Before the celebration could begin, however, private security forces guarding the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building began harassing Brown Berets organizer Anthony Fierro, who was sitting on a public bench in the shade; they claimed he had no right to sit there because the nearby building was closed. As supporters gathered to sit on the benches in solidarity with Fierro, security guards continued to harass Fierro and others while they called the Salt Lake City Police Department. SLCPD eventually arrived and ordered the rally to move off the sidewalk, though they quickly left.

Despite the guards’ attempt to disrupt the proceedings, no arrests or injuries occurred, and they succeeded only in showing everyone present the importance of fighting back. It showed in stark relief that authorities don’t want to see people rallying for the working class, and they cannot abide oppressed nationalities taking up public space, much less fighting for their rights.

Fierro soon delivered a stirring speech about how both law enforcement and the capitalist system have abandoned his community. But he drove home that we can win the struggles against poverty, police violence and anti-immigrant policies through the power of the people. He led the crowd in chants of “Fuck the police!” “Viva la revolución!” and “Viva la causa!”

Gabriella Killpack, a Teamster member, explained the history of May Day, also commonly known as International Worker’s Day, and its roots in remembrance of the martyrs at the Haymarket Massacre in 1886. She stressed the importance of remembering the past struggles of the working class, saying “they [the ruling class] don’t want us to know our history.” She reminded everyone of the incredible success of the working class movements: improved wages, the eight-hour workday, union power, safer working conditions and more.

David Newlin, an organizer with UAPB and FRSO, reminded those gathered that the institution of the police itself originated as a means of controlling the working class through breaking strikes, harassing workers, controlling slaves and capturing those seeking freedom. He said that police exist only to protect and serve the ruling class, and said “there is a direct connection between the struggle of the working class and the struggle to end police violence.”

The final speaker, Ian Decker of FRSO, reminded the crowd that the solution to these injustices - to police officers profiling and shooting people of color, to workers being underpaid and overworked, to gender inequality, and to capitalism itself - is socialism. As Decker put it, “Socialism is taking power, lifting ourselves, and finding security and safety.”

The overwhelming sense at the rally was that the people of Salt Lake City are tired of police violence, of the abuses of bosses and corporations, the harmful policies that school administrations push on their students, and oppressive anti-immigrant laws. Attendees left with a sense of solidarity with the working class here and abroad, and a renewed commitment to fight to end U.S. imperialism once and for all.