To celebrate May 1st 2015, the IWW Montreal organized and participated in numerous disruptive actions. In the works for nearly a year beforehand, this day of mobilizations was set in the context of a struggle against austerity measures imposed by the govenment. For the past year, the call for a general strike was heard throughout various workplaces ; universities and schools, hospitals and postal services, and in community organizations. By the eve of May 1st, hundreds of workplaces and oganizations, as well as higher education establishments, had voted day-long strike mandates in their general assemblies.
On the evening of April 30th, the IWW Montreal organized a blockage of the CBC tower, where important staff cuts and lay-offs are being planned. Several hundred people were present, allowing for the action to be a frank success, despite several arrests and the use of pepper spray. While a very imposing police presence initially blocked the demonstration and forced it to march in a circle, we eventually were able to disperse without attracting attention in order to reunite in front of the demonstration’s original target.
At 7:00 am on Friday, May 1st, several dozen Wobblies blocked all four exits of the Montreal Police’s Division of the Application of Parking Regulations. For close to two hours, no vehicle was able to leave the parking lot, until the intervention of riot police.
After a ‘popular metro’ operation, we converged with several striking organizations in order to massively participate in the morning demonstration organized by the Coalition Main Rouge (Red Hand Coalition – a broad coalition of Québec organizations against austerity), which we joyously prolonged with a spontaneous demonstration around Square Victoria (the center of Montreal’s business district). Several hundred people joined us just as spontaneously. We then added our support and numbers to the demonstration of the FTQ (Québecois Workers’ Federation – a major union federation).
Between 2pm and 5pm, the Montreal IWW organized a barbecue in the park adjacent to our offices. Once again, our capacity to mobilize large numbers of allies surpassed our wildest expectations, transforming a well-deserved moment of rest into a blockage of an adjacent street.
We then joined up with the demonstration from the northern neighborhoods in order to march downtown, where a blockage of the HSBC tower had been planned by the CLAC (Convergence of anti-capitalist struggles). A few minutes before our arrival, the main demonstration was very violently attacked by riot police forces, fractioning the principal group into several smaller demonstrations which spready throughout the downtown area. Several hours of clashes with police ensued, whose violence was proportional to their uselessness all throughout the day. The police protected and served no one but capital itself.
It is important de note that all of our actions received frank support from workers and passers-by. It is indeed rare to receive as much support from passing drivers as we did, especially as we proudly displayed our red and black. Workers of the establishments we blocked voiced their desire to also be on strike, despite restrictive legal conditions forbidding them to do so. We urged them to take their legitimacy into their own hands.
Of course, the SPVM (the Montreal police force) was also strongly mobilized. Their courage was only equalled by their inability to control the crowds, so great was the number of actions organized. We can confrm that the police was clearly unable to manage the sheer amount of events during the day, and sought to catch itself up during the evening’s demonstration. It is evidently much simpler to repress one large and localized demonstration rather than hundreds of diffuse actions. Information on the SPVM’s logistics informed us that the IWW was a privileged target (even the “number 1 priority”, according to some reports) following our blockage of the police’s parking agents that morning, and allowed us to escape being kettled around noon (thanks to the FTQ’s support). As such, we were able to avoid any criminalization of our members and allies, and we ended the day with only 5 tickets issued.
In the end, we are deeply proud to have participated in the organization of this day. The benefits in terms of the Union’s image, of the wider dissemination of our message, and in terms of signing new members are already being felt. We were able to present ourselves as a uniting force for other unions and strug gling working folks, without ever having to disavow or hide our revolutionary convictions. The efforts put into the organization of these actions will undoubtedly allow future May Days to be as interesting and stimulating as this one – to make it a true day of revolutionary struggle. But we rest not, and already we are organizing new struggles.