by Heather Ajani
On May 1st, activists and anarchists from around Arizona met in Tempe to celebrate Mayday. The crowd, which consisted of approximately 85 participants made their way down 5th street chanting, holding signs and banners for neighborhood onlookers to see as they made their way towards Mill Ave in downtown Tempe.
The celebration took shape on Mill Ave. as participants took to the sidewalks, targeting corporate business and consumers. Anti-corporate and anti-police chants were shouted by the crowd as they confronted businesses such as Urban Outfitters, Hooters, and Borders Books. As the group circled Tempe City Hall, an onlooker with the protest heard police say they were "targeting for 8 o'clock."
Onlookers stood and watched not sure of why folks were out "protesting." One man said that he thought the "whole thing was retarded..I don't know why they [Mayday participants] are protesting the war, I was in the military for two years and I love my country." When the event was explained to him, he exclaimed, "well it's still retarded, even if it's not an anti-war march."
Mayday celebrants headed up and down Mill Ave. as police blocked crosswalks and followed the march on bicycles. As the celebration headed south on Mill around 8pm, the police began to encircle the crowd, which kept moving along Mill Ave. as a police SUV blocked traffic as a muffled speaker warned protesters to stay "off of the street and the sidewalks."
As the crowd continued to move, police moved further into the crowd, charging with horses as foot police grabbed one woman with a bullhorn at 8:03pm as the march was in full swing. The woman, was charged with "obstructing a public thoroughfare" by Tempe police, though she was in the center of the crowd. None of the surrounding participants were cited or taken into custody.
As a result of the arrest, several people were assaulted and or injured by Tempe police officers, including two female Phoenix Copwatch members who were acting as legal observers. Another woman's glasses were broken and a man suffered a foot injury as a police horse trampled over his foot.
Police attempted to further control the situation by pointing pepper spray canisters into the crowd, though at one point during the march a police officer told an IMC reporter that they [the police] were not prepared to use any chemical weapons. It was apparent that the police were disorganized as various officers reprimanded each other for failing to control the crowd throughout the evening, via verbal shouting and through radio communication.
In spite of the one arrest, the crowd continued to move along unfazed for the next forty-five minutes. Police, which greatly outnumbered the march participants, continued to follow the group as they made their way back to their vehicles after the activities ended. The evening ended without further arrests, though the police continued to monitor the park that had been used as the convergence point earlier in the day.
Mayday is a labor holiday celebrated world-wide, excluding the U.S., who changed the observance of Labor Day to September, after several factory uprisings, such as the Haymarket Square riots in Chicago, at the beginning of the 20th century.