LOS ANGELES: Mass Arrests as Communists Lead May Day March through Boyle Heights

By Matt Handocerdos

Communists, revolutionaries, and the masses marched through the streets of Boyle Heights and into one of the crumbling centers of gentrification – the so-called “Boyle Heights Arts District” for this year’s combative May Day. Although several attendees got away at the end of the march, 24 people were kettled and arrested on rioting charges.

Of the 24 people arrested — known as the “May Day 24”– two were volunteer reporters and photographers for Incendiary. All their cameras and camcorders were confiscated.

The march was publicized as “Red May Day,” according to Red Guards Los Angeles (RGLA) social media posts, in opposition to the phony May Day marches and rallies in downtown Los Angeles led by the labor aristocrats of organized labor, Democratic Party imperialists, and capitalist non-profits.

The rally started at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, where Communists, revolutionaries, and the masses gathered to hear speeches about International Workers’ Day from RGLA and others. There was also a public reading of “May Day, Forever Red Again!” a May Day poem originally published in the Maoist theoretical journal, Struggle Sessions; at this time the police presence was light.

The rally then mobilized and took over the busy intersection of 1st Street and Boyle Avenue. Marchers ignited road flares and raised them high, while others proudly held up red flags, posters of Karl Marx, Chairman Mao, and Chairman Gonzalo, hammers and sickles, and revolutionary pro-worker slogans. The police presence increased slightly, but there was still no interference.

The marchers yelled out popular and revolutionary chants, such as “El barrio no se vende, se ama y se defiende!” (The hood is not for sale, it is to be loved and defended!), “One solution: revolution!” and “¡Qué tenemos? ¡Nada! ¡Qué queremos? ¡Todo!” (What do we have? Nothing! What do we want? Everything!) as they approached the final destination: the arts district.

As marchers made their way to the arts district, they made a temporary stop near 3rd Street and Boyle Avenue, just down the street from the well-known struggle by the Mariachi renters against their slumlord back in 2017 and 2018. A revolutionary with Serve the People – Los Angeles, which organizes the barrio committees for working-class tenants, delivered a May Day speech.

Afterward the march continued toward the Pico Gardens housing projects, stopping momentarily at Clarence Street and 4th Street where another revolutionary delivered a speech from Defend Boyle Heights. The speech covered May Day and the overall importance of the Communist movement’s key relationship with the anti-gentrification movement.

By this time the police presence began to swell, mostly consisting of bicycle police. But as the marchers progressed into the arts district, police cruisers began appearing and at least one helicopter flew directly over the marchers as they descended on the arts district.

Although attendance was low, the militant marchers were in high spirits. Smoke grenades were deployed, flares were held high and buckets of paint were splattered on the walls of several galleries and other buildings in the art district, according to an NBC Los Angeles news report. Popular slogans, such as “GENTRY OUT”, appeared in spray paint on some walls close to two gentrifier breweries, Indie Brewery and Dry River Brewery.

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As the march was coming to a conclusion and participants began to disperse, a swarm of bicycle police and undercover police cars kettled a majority of the march.

Initially, the police said they were arresting everyone for vandalism, assault, arson, and failure to disperse. They kept the May Day 24 near 7th Street and Anderson Street for about two hours, questioning some, attempting to drum up worry and fear. However, the vast majority of the marchers were resilient and shouted revolutionary slogans in celebration of the announced existence of the Committee to Reconstitute the Communist Party of the USA in the “International May Day 2019: Dare to struggle, dare to win!” statement. Some shouted “Long live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism!” as they attempted to breach the police line. But more than 50 police on foot with more than a dozen police cruisers and at least two helicopters surrounded the marchers.

After a few hours, the police loaded up all 24 marchers into police vans and transported them to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center. During the ride, several marchers slipped out of the zip ties and made light of the police’s inability to break their spirits.

As the marchers were booked and charged for “rioting,” their spirits remained unbroken. Some comrades sang revolutionary songs and hummed and whistled “The Internationale” while in the cells. Some even berated the police, raising up the spirits of all the arrested marchers.

A GoFundMe has gone up collecting funds for the May Day 24.

As of tonight all of the May Day 24 have been released.