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Ottawa May Day

Eleanor Riley

May 5, 2015

Working class under attack! What do we do? March in the streets of Ottawa with over 200 participants, to demonstrate our opposition to austerity economics!
On May 1 groups from across Ottawa gathered at The Human Rights Monument at City Hall for the start of the annual May Day march. The local anti-capitalist group Solidarity Against Austerity organized the festivities, making an effort to invite the indigenous community, upon whose unceded and unsurrended land the event was organized. The march began with a traditional water ceremony and smudging by indigenous community leader Claudette Commanda and Linda Kitchikeesic. Speakers from recently closed indigenous community 510 Rideau spoke about the need for solidarity in the face of cuts to funding, and a representative from ACORN talked about the need to elevate minimum wage out of the realm of poverty wage.
With Ottawa ACORN leading the march, demonstrators set off towards the Prime Minister’s Office, stopping along the way at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers office to hear from student leader Vincent Morceau (Student Federation of the University of Ottawa), Andrea Harden (Council of Canadians) and Linda Kitchikeesic (Idle No More). Though smaller than last years march, only several hundred, the demands this year were clear and well displayed. Signs were hoisted skyward: expand Canada Post, free tuition now, stop the tar sands, stop C-51 and raise the minimum wage to $15. The march was filled with flags and colorful placards, and had a truly festive feel to it as it moved through the streets accompanied by music and chants.
Unlike Montreal’s May Day march, the Ottawa march faced only the usual police intervention, and demonstrators were able to converge peacefully at the PMO to hear the final speakers talk about attacks on the working class, healthcare austerity and the need to stop bill C-51. The RCMP officers did have some harsh criticism for the speakers this year, suggesting that for next year we collectively invest in public speaking lessons “or at least get some interesting speakers.” There was some brief excitement during the end of the march when a local vanguardist organization burned the Canadian flag; which was missed by most attending due to the general clamour. After the flag burning the vanguard melted into the crowd and disappeared, an action whose irony did not go unnoticed.
All in all the march in Ottawa was well attended by public servants, community organizations, anti-poverty activists and students. This year a concerted effort was made to turn May Day organizing into more of a coalition, inviting more groups to get involved. Though May Day in Ottawa has a momentum of its own, more can and will be done to draw in diverse participation next year from those groups most impacted by austerity.

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