Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Workers express anger, gloom, elation on May Day

MADRID (AP) — On the front lines of May Day protests this yr, along with the traditional chants, banners and marches, a gamut of emotions flowed through the crowds.Anger. Fr. Elation. Satisfaction. Despair.A group of Russian nationalists carry old Russian Empire flags as they march to
mark May Day in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, May 1, 2012. Russia has experienced
a surge of racist assaults, xenophobia and neo-Nazism in the yrs since the
Soviet collapse.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
With Europe's unemployed denouncing austerity msures and Asia's laborers demanding higher salaries, Tuesday's May Day demonstrations were less a celebration of workers' rights and more a venting of fury over spending cuts, tax hikes and soaring unemployment.The protests came just days ahd of elections in Greece and France, whose lders have acutely felt popular anger over policies many feel are strangling any hopes of economic recovery. The rallies reflected deep pessimism in Spain, whose fragile economy is in the cross-hairs of the Europn debt crisis.Yet optimism and national pride emerged too. Over 100,000 turned out in Russia for May Day rallies that celebrated Vladimir Putin's government. And tens of thousands of workers rallied with joy in France, hoping this would be the last week of President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative ldership.In the United States, demonstrations, strikes and acts of civil disobedience were planned, including the country's most high-profile Occupy rallies since the anti-Wall Street encampments came down in the fall.Under a gray Madrid sky that reflected the dark national mood, 25-yr Adriana Jaime turned out to march. Jaime spks three foreign languages and has a masters degree as a translator, but works for what she derided as pnuts in a university resrch project that has been cut from three yrs to three months due to a lack of funds.She sees her future as grim at best."I am here because there is no future for the young people of this country," she said as many marchers carried black-and-white placards with the word NO and a pair of red scissors.Riot police stand next to a ing election kiosk of an independent right-wing
candidate by protesters during a May Day protest in Athens, Tuesday,
May 1, 2012. In debt-crippled Greece, more than 2,000 people marched
through central Athens in subdued May Day protests centered on the
country's harsh austerity program. The Greek elections are scheduled for
Sunday, May 6. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is trying desperately to cut a bloated deficit, restore investor confidence in Spain's public finances, lower its 24.4 jobless rate, and fend off frs the country will join Greece, Ireland and Portugal in needing a bailout.Despite his efforts, Ana Lopez, a 44-yr-old civil servant, argued that the government is doing nothing to help workers and that the economic crisis is only benefiting banks."Money does not just disappr. It does not fly away. It just changes hands, and now it is with the banks," Lopez said. "And the politicians are puppets of the banks."In France, tens of thousands of workers, leftists and union lders marked May Day with glee, hoping that a presidential runoff vote Sunday will put a Socialist — Francois Hollande — at the helm for the first time since 1988. Many voters fr Sarkozy will erode France's welfare and worker protections, and see him as too friendly with the rich."Sarkozy has allowed himself for too long to manhandle the lower classes," said Dante Leonardi, a 24-yr-old in Paris. "Today we must show ... that we want him to lve."Hollande has promised high taxes on the rich."We are going to choose Hollande because we want something else for France. We want to keep our jobs, we want to keep our industrial jobs, we want a new economy," said protester Serge Tanguy.Even in Germany, where the economy is churning and unemployment is at a record low, unions estimated that 400,000 people showed up at over 400 May Day rallies. The DGB union group sharply criticized Europe's trty enshrining fiscal discipline and the resulting austerity msures across the continent, calling instd for a stimulus program to revive the eurozone's depressed economies.DGB chief Michael Sommer told thousands of workers in Stuttgart that a "Marshall Plan" worth billions of euros (dollars) was needed to stimulate Europe's economy, the German news acy dapd reported.In debt-crippled Greece, more than 2,000 people marched through central Athens in subdued May Day protests centered on the country's harsh austerity program.In Moscow, the mood was resolutely pro-government, as 100,000 people — including President Dmitry Medvedev and President-elect Putin — took part in the main May Day march.The two lders happily chatted with participants as many banners criticized the Russian opposition movement. One rd "Spring has come, the swamp has dried up," referring to Bolotnaya (Swampy) Square, the site of some of the largest opposition demonstrations.Communists and leftists held a separate May Day rally in Moscow that attracted about 3,000. Communist Party lder nady Zyuganov decried international economic troubles, saying that "without socialism, without respect for the working people who crte all the main value in this land, it is not possible to get out of this crisis."Police arrested 22 people at the rally.rlier, thousands of workers protested in the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan and other Asian nations, demanding wage hikes. They said their take-home pay could not keep up with rising food, energy and housing prices and school fees.
An unemployed father of six set himself on fire in southern Pakistan in an apparent attempt to kill himself because he was mired in poverty, according to police r Nek Mohammed. Abdul Razzaq Ansari, 45, suffered s on 40 percent of his body but survived.
In Manila, capital of the Philippines, more than 8,000 union members clad in red shirts and waving red strmers marched under a brutal sun to a hvily barricaded bridge nr the Malacanang presidential palace, which teemed with thousands of riot police.
Another group of left-wing workers later ed a huge effigy of President Benigno Aquino III, depicting him as a lac of the United States and big business. Aquino has rejected their calls for a $3 daily pay hike, which he warned could worsen inflation and spark layoffs.
In Indonesia, thousands of protesters demanding higher wages paraded through traffic-clogged streets in the capital, Jakarta, where 16,000 police and soldiers were deployed. Protests were also held in Taiwan, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
In Athens, Ilias Vrettakos of the ADEDY union summed up the mood.
"(We need) new policies that will satisfy the needs of workers and not of bosses and banks," he said.
Source: The Associated Press

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