May Day not really for ding-dong-ditching flowers

Melanie Wakefield

An unknown protester threw a bomb into police ranks, killing one officer instantly. Enraged, police open fired into the crowd of protesters fighting in court for an eight hour work day.

This isn’t the May Day usually thought of.

During May Day Jazmin Sanchezllanes said that she, “Helped work a food drive.”

For little kids, May Day is a day to ding-dong ditch the neighbors and leave a bouquet of flowers on the doorstep. However, in all actuality, May Day celebrates the beginning of a protest for an eight hour work day.

Going back in time to May 1, 1886 Chicago, it wasn’t flowers that people were holding in the city.

“(The) entire city was prepared for mass bloodshed… On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history,” according to

This happened after a long and hard disagreement about the work hours. No one seemed willing to let people work less than twelve, or sometimes more, hours a day.

Imagine going to work every day at five in the morning and not getting home until seven or eight o’clock at night. That was the reality for these workers.

“I would… sleep as much as I can on my off days,” Sanchezllanes said.

Everyone, socialists, anarchists and others, decided to go on strike. Unions gathered together to protest and the fight was on.

May 1 rolled around and they all walked off their jobs and amid the frustrated looks of the officers and business owners. But it wasn’t as violent and chaotic as authorities had planned.

“More and more workers continued to walk off their jobs until the numbers swelled to nearly 100,000, yet peace prevailed. It was not until two days later, May 3, 1886, that violence broke out at the McCormick Reaper Works between police and strikers,” according to

After months of beatings and harassment from the police to the protesters, angry police and fed-up revolutionists called a public meeting. There had previously been deaths, but the sudden bombing of a single unknown protester caused more harm than good. The protester threw the bomb into police ranks after the meeting and killed one officer instantly. Infuriated officers open fired, killing an estimated seven or eight civilians and wounding possibly forty.

“Over one hundred years have passed since that first May Day. In the earlier part of the 20th century, the US government tried to curb the celebration and further wipe it from the public’s memory by establishing ‘Law and Order Day’ on May 1,” according to

May Day was a originally a day for rights and people fought for what they believed was proper and deserved.

“The protests were not immediately successful, but they proved effective down the line, as eight-hour work days eventually became the norm. Labor leaders, socialists, and anarchists around the world took the American strikes and their fallout as a rallying point, choosing May Day as a day for demonstrations, parades and speeches,” according to

And while the history of a spring day isn’t what is normally thought of when the term “May Day” is used, the day was and is greatly appreciated.