Labor Day

LABOUR DAY


BLUE LIGHTS, RED FLAGS AND DRUMS SET THE SCENE ON OPPOSITE SIDES OF STORA NYGATAN AROUND LUNCHTIME ON INTERNATIONAL LABOR DAY IN 2019.


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It began in the early 20th century in Chicago with the main aim to demand an eight hour work day, a goal reached in Sweden hundred years ago. Since the demands have shifted to solidarity, re-distribution of wealth, right to strike to which equal rights for women and most recently demands for a responsible environmental policy have been added.

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To the beat of a samba drum band red banners and flags walked off Gustav Adolfs Torg and down Stora Nygatan. The long march of the former Communist Party had originated at Möllevångstorget and was heading for Kungsparken where speeches and Palestinian musical entertainment would round out the event. As a small faction of the Social Democratic Party was determined to support the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, it split off to form the Communist Party in 1917. When the Soviet Union crumbled in 1990 the word Communist was dropped and it was rebranded to Vänsterpartiet (the Left Party). However they were still stayed well to the left, hence the march included a mish-mash of international causes from Iranian, Palestinian, Ocolans Turkish PKK to Che Guevera and Venezuelan flags. Frequent throughout the trail Swedish signs of bicycle cargo bikes, prams and Kånken backpacks.

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As the much larger Vänsterpartiet march had disappeared off the square the drums and horns of a marching band in blue uniforms took off from Södergatan. Behind red, the Swedish blue and yellow and a UN flag opposite direction at exactly 1400. As a former UN peace keeper and staff member I felt that the apolitical light blue flag was mal-place in this obviously political context.

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At the front of the march the head of the municipality in Malmö Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh walked alongside with Mikael Damberg, Swedish Minister for Home Affairs. Tagging him two close protection officers in black suits and curly-wired earpieces.

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About half an hour later the first flags approached the gates to Folkets Park when a small group of black dressed young men tried to unroll a large yellow banner across the entrance. A bit of a scuffle ensued with the security guards backed up by police who quickly and very professionally cordoned off the group. The last of the march passed by and heard only a solitary call to the Social Democrats not limit the right to strike. It is comforting to be in a country where everyone has the right to speak their mind even if the occasion and will to disturb and interrupt someone else’s rights are OK.

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About half an hour later the first flags approached the gates to Folkets Park when a small group of black dressed young men tried to unroll a large yellow banner across the entrance. A bit of a scuffle ensued with the security guards backed up by police who quickly and very professionally cordoned off the group. The last of the march passed by and heard only a solitary call to the Social Democrats not limit the right to strike. It is comforting to be in a country where everyone has the right to speak their mind even if the occasion and will to disturb and interrupt someone else’s rights are OK.

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The rally ended at the stage in Folkets Park where a handful of speakers voiced different nuances on the familiar topics of solidarity, resisting the right wing wave, affordable housing, corporate greed and the hot potato of the day the environment. The final speaker Mikael Damberg the Minister of Home Affairs ticked all the boxes and ended with urging the assembled to vote in the upcoming EU elections another institution in serious need of overhaul. The crowd started to trickle off as the speakers on stage took tune in the labor anthem “the International”. One party faithful expressed a bit of envy over the size of the other labor march as the red flags were rolled up for next year’s march.

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