As May came upon us, we spent a lot of time thinking about how we’ve celebrated the worker’s holiday in the past. Previous May Day celebrations in Kansas City have been purely celebratory. And, although International Worker’s Day is the only holiday for the workers, and an occasion for great celebration, it is also a day of struggle and rebellion. In our earlier statement, we stressed this element of the holiday for a reason. This year, we decided to forgo picnics and parties in favor of a show of resistance. We took the street in a militant march in a working class neighborhood that is currently being targeted by developers, using our march both to celebrate and to call for resistance against the coming waves of gentrification. Spirits were high and the mood was pleasant, but every marcher in attendance was prepared to be met with resistance, and to resist in turn.
In Kansas City the only May Day celebrations are put on by communists and other small left groups. There is no official large rally downtown, no union organized rallies, and no history of May Day celebrations in recent times. So when we hit the streets and start canvassing for May Day, the people are often confused about the purpose of the holiday and why we are so excited about it. But we are determined to build up Red May Day and build up class consciousness around the importance of this militant working class holiday, even if it takes years in the process.
In the lead-up to May 1st, comrades dedicated several nights a week, for several weeks, to putting up flyers for the march and talking to community members at bus stops, store fronts, and in parking lots, informing them about the march, discussing the history of May Day, the importance of class consciousness and class solidarity, and about their experiences with the new developments coming to the Troost corridor. We had good conversations and were met largely with enthusiasm at the idea of a militant movement against gentrification. We were able to hear many stories from older residents and learn a more personal history of our city. We were also able to hear frustrations, concerns, and the doubts that many have about the peoples’ ability to create real change in their neighborhoods.
Mainly, our efforts were concentrated along Troost, from 31st to 39th, but we also flyered on surrounding blocks. Several times, we ran into people we had met earlier in the week and were able to continue conversations and joke around. This was a start in building a presence. We hope that we will be able to strengthen the connections we have made and to make new ones as time goes on and our work along Troost becomes more focused and consistent.
Frequently, we encountered our flyers being taken down or damaged, but we doubled down our efforts and spent more time on the street, meeting people and letting them know about our upcoming march. Based on the responses we encountered while flyering, we doubt the culprits were regulars to the block, as there was a personal level to the damage to our propaganda that more likely came from other organizers and/or reactionaries.
Comrades from multiple Maoist organizations in the city put in extensive effort towards painting banners, designing decorations, writing literature to share along our route, and planning chants. Although we thought the odds of multiple arrests were slim, we knew that arrests were always a possibility when we choose to stand our ground, so we also made arrangements for how we would deal with them.
When the day came, comrades from Red Guards Kansas City and the mass organizations Progressive Youth Organization and Serve the People gathered at 35th and Troost and spoke with people at the bus stops and people driving and walking by, letting them know why we were there and inviting their involvement in the march. The responses were largely positive. A few people in cars pulled over to speak with us and to take our flyers and zines. Although many were reluctant to join us in the march, many were glad to see us out and were happy to stop us to talk and ask questions about the plans for both the march and militant resistance to the displacement on the horizon.
Much has been made by liberals about our appearance – the masks and guns and openly communist banners – making us unapproachable to the public at large. Once again, we found this concern unfounded. While the pigs and reactionaries find us threatening and unapproachable at actions, we once again had no trouble having conversations with passers-by and receiving enthusiasm and support from them. Women walking home and families with their children felt safe enough standing alongside us and asking questions about our purpose, proving once again that the masses understand who the real threat to their lives are.
The amount of time we spent rallied in one area, propagating our message and encouraging more community involvement, ended up being an error on our part. This was time that we could have used to get the march started, giving us more time to finish before the Kansas City Pig Department was able to rally in full force. This is an error we will not repeat, as there is always time after for us to do more personal outreach. But we still feel that this time was valuable to our efforts of building a presence in the area.
We began the march with few community members actively participating, but people at every street corner watching and filming. We received some encouragement and interest in the first few blocks, during which we marched along one lane of Troost. No cars or pedestrians made an issue of our presence in the street, as they were more interested than inconvenienced.
Despite the lack of community complaints, two blocks into our march, the police began to arrive and announced to us that we would need to move onto the sidewalk. Too often in the past, demonstrations in KC have been too compliant with pigs, in order to avoid potentially violent conflicts. While this is an understandable impulse, this is a trend that will not continue, and this May Day we applied this policy.
As soon as the police informed us that we would need to move to the sidewalk, comrades in the center began to instruct other marchers to tighten the formation and carry on. Comrades more prepared to be met with police aggression moved themselves to the edges of the procession, but even the less experienced and confident marchers did not make an effort to remove themselves or to suggest compliance. Every one of our marchers stood firm and carried on chanting and marching and waving red banners high. For some comrades in the mass orgs, this was their first action of this nature and their consistent courage and enthusiasm was even more impressive in this light.
In very short order, more than five cop cars were following us, with more on the way. They did not wait long after we had refused their warnings to take action. Although they profess to be protecting public safety and enforcing the law, their first actions were to block the entire street and snatch up a comrade who was exercising his right to open carry. They, as expected, provided no explanation for his arrest.
Instead of backing down and scattering when the armed comrade was removed from the fray, we tightened our ranks and rallied around our arrested comrade until he encouraged us to continue our march.
Once again, undeterred by the initial arrest, our comrades took the streets with a renewed energy. They held the flags high and their chants were louder and more defiant. In between calls for revolution and affirmations of the power of the masses, comrades were able to quickly add chants expressing their anger at the pigs at this injustice. More comrades than ever were confident enough to lead new chants and carry on well-established ones.
The pigs’ fear and confusion at our display of resistance and indifference to their orders was evident in their escalating use of force against our gathering. They were desperate to instill in us the fear and compliance they are used to seeing from the people they brutalize daily, and they were disappointed.
These brave protectors of the people and traffic brought in even more cars to stop the flow of traffic, effectively shutting down an entire block of Troost, and began grabbing comrades and throwing them to the ground, tackling them, and striking and shoving the comrades who rushed to the defense of the ones being brutalized in the streets. They pointed rifles into our ranks and, on one occasion, into the face of a marcher who had already been thrown down and handcuffed. They threatened us with pepper spray and waved guns recklessly around, courageously protecting those standing by from the danger of our one-lane march.
The community members who had been watching did not appear to feel any safer due to this display. One man approached the fray to try to inform our detained comrades of their rights while others filmed the police actions. When we continued our march and directed our chants against the police, we were stopped on a corner by someone excited to see people resisting the police who routinely flex their muscles and terrorize the neighborhood. Some threw up fists and honked in support, and one woman cheered on our chants against the violent and cowardly pigs, slowing her car to shout along.
The pigs blows did not go unanswered however. Communists have every right to defend their comrades when they are being attacked by foot soliders of the oppressive state apparatus, and during the clashes anonymous rebels were able to land hits on the pigs, before retreating back into the group.
We finished the march and began the final part of our demonstration. We burned an American flag while a speech written by one of our detained comrades was read aloud. The police looked on, but did not attempt to stop us, although they did call in a fire truck to block another lane of traffic.
Once we had completed the march, the flag burning, and the speech, we began the process of getting our political prisoners released.
With four comrades sitting in the state’s cages, we set to work finding out where they were being held and were able to mobilize every one of the remaining marchers to the jail to show our support and demand that they release the wrongly-arrested comrades. We also set up a bail fund to speed up our efforts at posting bond to get them each home. The support we received was immediate and overwhelming, and was instrumental in securing both bond and getting a head start on legal funds, to fight the charges that were haphazardly stuck to those arrested, in order to intimidate them and impede their work.
During our protest outside the jail, another attempt was made to silence us. The pigs detained another comrade for standing too close to the doors (although, they initially tried to paint the encounter as an assault on an officer).
Once again, instead of intimidating even those members of the mass orgs with little experience with this kind of conflict, this new injustice added fuel to our fire and left us all the more determined to get our comrades back and to not bend under the petty attacks of the yapping dogs of the state.
Comrades continued the chants and noise demonstrations for over three hours, even after those arrested were transferred to two separate jails in an attempt to throw us off and get some peace from us. We shut down the noise demo at about 10:30 p.m. so that we didn’t keep the inmates, who are awoken at early hours, up later than they’d want to be. Still, comrades continued to occupy the sidewalks outside the jails, sharing food and conversation, and reminding the pigs and their accomplices that we would not leave until we were leaving with everyone we started the day with. Even though they did everything they could to confuse and stall us, we held firm.
A crucial element in our efforts to have our comrades released also came from outside our ranks. We owe thanks to members of both the KC branch of the Democratic Socialists of America and the KC Solidarity chapter, who came to the jails along with us, in a show of true and much-appreciated solidarity. DSA brought food to those gathered, many of whom had not eaten for over five hours. And a few members of the Solidarity chapter dedicated hours of their night to locating which jails our comrades were in when the police refused to tell us. These good samaratins spent much of the night getting information to us and standing with us in our demands for the release of our comrades. Solidarity with fellow workers and organizers, despite drastically different political stances and platforms, is an incredible weapon against the state.
By two in the morning, despite delays and misdirection, we were able to warmly greet and celebrate all of our once-imprisoned comrades, getting them fed and back to their own beds. While some of our members had to go home before due to early work schedules and classes, we were able to maintain sizeable numbers outside of the jails late into the night, with some who had missed the march coming also to stand with us and offer supplies and support.
Although we did not have the community involvement we had hoped for in this march, we did garner support and were pleasantly surprised by the solidarity and excitement from onlookers when we demonstrated a refusal to bend to the will of the pigs.
This further proved to us that the people of our city are eager for change. They are ready for an increased militancy and discipline that they haven’t seen in the past from the charities and pseudo-revolutionaries that have consistently sold them false promises. We believe this was a solid start to our efforts to build trust and camaraderie within the community in this particular area, although this is far from the end. We will continue to stand with the workers in our city against gentrification and police violence. We will not stop until we have built up a proletarian movement capable of defending the interests of our class and defending us from the fascists and reactionaries that daily threaten our people.
This day also further proved the cowardice and desperation of the pigs, who are increasingly frustrated and aggressive in the face of a rising power from the people. The dogs of the state will grow more violent and less bound by rules as our resistance to them strengthens, but these are the dying gasps of a system that is losing its grip and that knows it will soon be cast into the abyss. And so, though we know the danger to us will likely grow, we are not afraid of what is to come. For us and for all working people, what is coming is victory and power that will be worth our sacrifices and temporary suffering. The pain and humiliation of our comrades beaten and imprisoned only strengthens their resolve and fuels their rage.
We fully believe that, the next time we take these same streets, it will be in greater numbers. It will be bolder and it will be even less afraid of the guns and muscle of the state.
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Long live the militant legacy of May Day!
Long live the fighting spirit of the working class!
Long live the Red Guards!