Some of the rallies were tame, but otherswere messy, dramatic, and even violent. Riot police in Turkey, Russia, France, and Italy clashed with crowds of agitated protesters and arrested hundreds of them.
Workers across the world have been spending May 1 this way for more than a century. Socialists in Europe picked the day to honor laborers killed in the Chicago Haymarket riot of 1886. Workers in the city had gone on strike that year on May 1, demanding an eight-hour workday in the US and across the globe. Clashes with police ended up killing eight people, and four labor leaders were later executed by hanging.
Historians consider the Haymarket riot a pivotal moment in the history of America’s labor movement, according to the National Park Service, which designated the site as a historic landmark. In the agency’s description of the strike’s significance, it’s easy to see how the event still inspires protests taking place today:
As a result of clashes between workers and police in Chicago following May Day rallies, and the subsequent execution of several protesters, May Day took on added significance as a day to commemorate the martyrdom of workers, and has been celebrated throughout the world since 1886.
More than a century after the Chicago strike, May Day rallies have expanded far beyond the US and Europe. In most countries, May 1 is a national holiday. And demonstrations often involve brawls with police.