May Day marches: Lots of $15 support, a little rowdiness

The day's big crowd rallies for quick increases in workers' pay.
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Juan Jose Bocapello is in the forefront of the chanting in the Thursday afternoon May Day parade organized by the May 1 Coalition.

The day's big crowd rallies for quick increases in workers' pay.

To Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, Thursday's May 1 workers gathering at Westlake Park was a rally point to keep pushing for a faster track to a $15-per-hour minimum wage than a city task force wants.

To Rigoberto Arrilo, walking with roughly 1,000 people for three miles in the hot sun on Thursday, the gathering was a way to show solidarity. "It was little people helping little people," he said. Crowd members, of whom the biggest segment was Hispanic, cited better wages and protection from deportation as their biggest concerns.

To a few hundred anarchists, May 1 was a day to look mean at The Man. The Seattle Times reported several arrests, vandalism, some pepper spraying, and a meandering march from Capitol Hill to downtown Seattle and back — very unruly but nowhere near the anarchist-oriented chaos of previous May Days and protests.

The May 1 Coalition's labor and immigration march Thursday afternoon, the day's main event, was long, hot and peaceful. That march ended with Sawant telling the crowd at Westlake Park to pack City Hall on Monday when the council meets to discuss the recommendations announced Thursday by Mayor Ed Murray. Sawant was a member of the mayor's task force, but contended its approach is too slow and too wimpy.

Sawant asked the crowd: "Do you support a four-year phase-in by businesses?"

The crowd booed. An interpreter translated Sawant's question into Spanish. More boos came back.

Sawant continued the shouted dialogue about the task force's recommendations to include tips and health care in the $15-per-hour calculations. The crowd booed again and again. Sawant said, "Business proceeds to give away as little as they can get away with. ... That is why our work is far from done."

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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8