Snapshot: May Day risks

May Day on 1 May is marked by workers’ rallies and marches around the globe, bringing risks that range from traffic disruption through to violence involving protesters and the authorities.

May Day protesters Paris 2017
Protesters in Paris on May Day 2017

CONTEXT

The traditional northern hemisphere spring festival and holiday of May Day on 1 May was adopted by socialists and communists as International Workers’ Day and is marked by workers’ gatherings around the globe.

EVENTS

Europe and Russia

May Day rallies will be held in many European cities, including Athens, Paris, Barcelona, London, Lisbon and Rome, against the backdrop of civil unrest in several countries.

France
In France, around 250 May Day events are typically held nationwide, in cities including Paris, Lyon and Marseille. This coincides with strike action in France by rail workers and Air France employees, while student groups have been holding rallies at universities in Paris and cities such as Nantes. The CNT trade union has called for a protest to take place at 1200 local time at Place des Fêtes in central Paris.

Some fringe groups are encouraging violent acts at rallies. A Facebook group called “1er Mai 2018: Une journée en enfer“ (1 May 2018 : A Day of Hell), urges protesters to create mass disorder, telling supporters to meet at Place de la Bastille at 1430 local time.

The event is hosted by the protest group Génération Ingouvernable. Locations where confrontations are likely include Place de la Bastille and Place de la République in central Paris. Last year, anarchist groups hurled incendiary devices at security services.

Greece
Leftist organisations and trade unions have called for members to take part in nationwide May Day rallies. Anarchist groups have frequently taken part in anti-austerity protests, causing material damage and engaging in violent confrontations with the authorities.

Public transport workers are striking on 1 May, with action expected to cause considerable disruption. Workers at Greece’s main rail operator TrainOSE, which provides suburban railway services, are holding a 24-hour strike, while electric trolley-buses running in Athens will be affected by a different 24-hour strike. Separately, the Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation has called for a 24-hour strike that will affect shipping and ferry services.

The Netherlands
Drivers of buses and trains covering regional networks are holding a strike on 30 April-1 May, which will affect passengers using public transport to travel to Amsterdam’s Schiphol (AMS) airport.

Spain
Thousands gather for May Day rallies every year in Spain and there is a possibility that pro-independence groups will take part in demonstrations in Catalonian cities such as Barcelona.

Italy
Last May saw scuffles between police authorities and protesters in the northern city of Turin.

United Kingdom
While 1 May is not a public holiday in the United Kingdom, trade unions are holding May Day rallies in London. A march supported by the two largest trade unions, Unite and UNISON, gathers at Clerkenwell Green at 1200 local time, before moving to Trafalgar Square. A similar protest last year caused significant travel disruption.

Poland
In Poland, thousands gathered last May Day in the capital Warsaw to protest about safety at work. Similar rallies are likely this year.

Russia
It is possible that pro-LGBTQ and anti-government groups will stage May Day rallies in cities such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg. These are likely to be met with a strong police response.

Americas

Venezuela
Amid deteriorating economic and social conditions there will likely be violent scuffles between anti-government protesters and the authorities. Last year, police fired tear gas at protesters.

Argentina
Large-scale rallies are scheduled to take place in Buenos Aires.

United States
Last year, May Day protests occurred in cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, Seattle and Portland – where anarchists threw projectiles and incendiary devices at police.

Middle East and North Africa

Turkey
May Day protests in Istanbul last year saw scuffles between demonstrators and police. Security services fired tear gas on protesters and more than 200 anti-government activists were detained. Rallies are likely in central Istanbul this year, against the backdrop of general elections scheduled for June.

Iraq, Lebanon
Communist parties in Iraq and Lebanon traditionally hold peaceful rallies in their respective capitals of Baghdad and Beirut.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Francophone African countries with strong trade union traditions typically hold May Day events which disrupt economic activity and urban travel. These include Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Togo and Benin.

South Africa
The three major trade union federations are planning May Day rallies in major cities next week. These year’s marches are likely to be well-attended due to opposition to the government proposals for a minimum wage of R20 per hour,

Nigeria
During May Day rallies last year, confrontations broke out between protesters and security services.

Kenya
Large rallies usually take place throughout the country.

Ethiopia
Although May Day marches are less common, given the current civil unrest in the country, it is possible that residents take advantage of May Day celebrations to protest about job opportunities.

Asia-Pacific

Indonesia
May Day gatherings can attract hundreds of thousands and have in the past turned violent. Workers are set to march around the area of the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta.

Cambodia
Marches in Cambodia have turned violent in the past and take place at a tense time as general elections are being held in July.

Sri Lanka
Members of the People’s Liberation Front, a left-wing political party, took part in a march last year in the capital Colombo. Similar rallies could also take place this year.

Philippines
Last year, protesters held demonstrations outside the U.S. embassy in Manila.

ANALYSIS

Companies with personnel in cities where May Day events are taking place should advise employees to avoid areas were rallies are scheduled.

Business travellers should exercise situational awareness and withdraw from areas with a large security presence as police officers could be targeted by protesters.

May Day demonstrations are likely to lead to considerable traffic disruption and congestion. Logistics managers should instruct drivers to avoid central where rallies are scheduled. Retailers with street front stores should ensure they have comprehensive security measures in place.

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