Golden Gate Bridge facing May Day mob action
2012-04-25: The Golden Gate Bridge authority is preparing for May Day mobs staging rallies beside the bridge along with "occupy" actions to disrupt traffic and toll operations. Labor unions and leftist 'Occupy' groups have been discussing how to work together to mount a display of political might on the dramatic stage of the iconic San Francisco toll bridge.
Officials have to prepare for the possibility that crowds will try to force their way through police barriers and march onto the main span of the bridge.
Since June last year the unions - some 25 separate unions - have had their members working without a contract at the toll bridge, and its associated bus lines and ferries. Though it hasn't been announced the unions are expected to call a strike on May Day.
The bridge authority (known officially by the odd term Bridge District) is lining up part-time and temporary workers to fill in if the union regulars don't show up for work. In militant argot they will be denounced as "scabs."
Mary Currie, spokesman for the bridge says they're working to keep the bridge open. The bridge doesn't have its own police but detachments of the California (state) Highway Patrol (CHP) force provide policing and security. Control of crowds and traffic will be up to the CHP.
It is unclear the militant action helps the bridge workers cause. Pay and conditions at the Bridge have always been good by comparison with those elsewhere and the Bridge has no trouble hiring workers it needs. Mob scenes and disruption of traffic may lose the unions public and political sympathy as well as diminishing members' incomes.
But such practical considerations are sometimes trumped by ideology and emotion. And sometimes unexpected incidents intervene, and produce consequences unintended by the initiators of the event.
May Day is May 1, this year a Tuesday. Its use by leftists and labor unions for displays of militancy goes back to the May 1 1886 incident in Chicago known as the Haymarket massacre when a bomb was detonated among city police attempting to disperse a crowd of strikers and police then fired on the crowd. Eleven people (seven police and four strikers) died from the bomb and from the police gunfire that followed.
In years following it became the most sacred annual day of the various Internationales that preceded communism and the Russian revolution and was the public holiday most celebrated with huge parades, marches and speeches by leaders in the Soviet Union, Soviet bloc counties, communist China, Cuba and North Korea.
The bridge is the right color for May Day
Red - for blood - is the color that dominates May Day rallies. A common May Day flag is plain red.
The May Day song traditionally is "The People's Flag" from the lyrics by Irish revolutionary Jim Connell with allusions to the Haymarket massacre in Chicago.
It is sung to the simple tune of the German "Oh Tannenbaum":
The people's flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead,
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their hearts' blood dyed its every fold.
Then raise the scarlet standard high.
Within its shade we live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here.
Look round, the Frenchman loves its blaze,
The sturdy German chants its praise,
In Moscow's vaults its hymns were sung
Chicago swells the surging throng.
It waved above our infant might,
When all ahead seemed dark as night;
It witnessed many a deed and vow,
We must not change its color now.
It well recalls the triumphs past,
It gives the hope of peace at last;
The banner bright, the symbol plain,
Of human right and human gain.
It suits today the weak and base,
Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place
To cringe before the rich man's frown,
And haul the sacred emblem down.
With head uncovered swear we all
To bear it onward till we fall;
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,
This song shall be our parting hymn.
The Red Flag is easily sung by a crowd, hymn-like. Other revolutionary songs such as The Internationale and To The Barricades are difficult dirges by comparison.
A charming version of The Red Flag sung solo by an Irishman accompanied by a pipe or recorder here: