More than 300 people gathered in Monroe Park on Sunday to commemorate International Worker’s Day, often known as May Day.
Waving banners, handing out flyers and holding signs, participants called for workers’ rights and immigration reform.
Adria Scharf, executive director of the Richmond Peace Education Center, noted that the celebration this year comes amid a national debate about spending, taxes and the organized labor protests in Wisconsin.
“There is something fundamentally wrong here,” she said. “We are the most powerful nation on earth, and one-fourth of our children live in poverty. Here in Richmond, one in three children grow up poor.”
Each year, after the workshops and speakers, the May Day demonstration culminates in a march.
This year, however, the Richmond Police Department imposed a $294 fee to provide off-duty police officers to serve as escorts.
On Thursday, a federal judge nixed the Richmond May Day Coalition’s attempt to hold the parade without paying the fine.
Kenneth Yates, one of the parade’s organizers, disputed the decision.
“There is no special law saying that they can impose that fine,” he said.
After the federal court’s decision, the organizers released a statement saying “While we believe the sidewalks are not the safest, least disruptive or most practical place for us to demonstrate, the members of the Organizing Committee intend to abide by all traffic and safety law … but this is a diverse and large group, so it is impossible to guarantee that all parade participants will follow our lead.”
Indeed, the parade was split – half the crowd was on the sidewalk, the other in the street.
Led by horn-playing members of the No BS! Brass band and flanked by bicycle ushers and self-designated “medics,” the parade left Monroe Park, proceeding west on Main Street.
While the original route was supposed to north on Lombardy Street, west on Broad Street and back to Monroe Park, the parade instead marched down Harrison Street, then to Broad Street before returning to the park.