The "anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist First of May", in Setúbal, called for the recovery of the militant and anti-authoritarian tradition of the “Worker’s Day", escaping the “control of any party, official trade union or force of repression”. To a large extent, this objective was achieved. At a time when the ruling class is fiercely competing for the crumbs they want to rob from those who already have little, a demonstration that pointed to another way of struggle and resistance had to be repressed by the police.
The mobilization began at 1:00 pm, with a concentration in Misericórdia Square. Here, some revolutionary songs were played and statements were read trough the loud speaker. A group of comrades distributed a soup among those present. Despite the heavy rain that began to fall, about 150 people started a march through the narrow old streets of the city centre, echoing slogans like "No state, no boss, self-management", "We do not negotiate our slavery! Our lives don’t belong to the bosses!” or "For sabotage and wildcat strike!". The demonstration proceeded to Quebedo Square, where the march of the CGTP (General Confederation of Portuguese Workers) was starting. The protest continued on the tail of CGTP parade throughout the 5 de Outubro Avenue, as the more lively and combative sector in this march. The demonstration then left the CGTP parade and continued its way towards one of the working-class districts of Setúbal. Despite the divergence with the slogans shouted by the bureaucrats of the CGTP, who were calling for the "struggle" trough the vote in the upcoming elections, there were no incidents or provocations, neither in this nor in other parts of the march.
The demonstration ended in Fonte Nova Square, where the demonstrators rested their banners on the ground and were preparing to rest and socialize. Revolutionary songs were heard again from the sound system of a car parked in the square. However, within few minutes, a group of policemen in a provocative attitude tried to identify and arrest those who were near the car. With this, began the confrontation between police and protesters, who tried to prevent the arrest of these comrades and to defend themselves from the attacks. Police used pepper spray against the face of some protesters and began firing rubber bullets against those who were in the square. A police officer even shot real bullets into the air.
The residents of the neighborhood, surprised by the disproportionate police action against a Mayday demonstration, showed solidarity and helped some of the wounded. The protesters managed to withdraw from the place together, but ended up being chased through the streets of Setúbal, being continually targeted by rubber bullets and police bats. Some people were detained for identification and beaten under police custody, and many more injured.
The police accomplished their goal, perfectly in line with the police State and the austerity capitalism under which we are living: to punish anyone who wants to protest beyond the controlled and ineffective acts of the official trade unions and movements of "outraged citizens". At a time when the Portuguese bourgeoisie, with the support of the IMF and the European Union, uses its means of mass propaganda to announce that the only solution to the "crisis" they created and that continues to make their profits, is to fulfill their age-old project – salary reductions, freedom to fire, privatization of essential services, etc.. –, the performance of the PSP (Public Security Police) in Setúbal is a strong sign that the gang that rules and exploits us, along with their obedient mercenaries, are not willing to tolerate demonstrations that enunciate any real and non-controlled form of struggle. With the proximity of government elections, they want to make us believe that the only way we can change something is by voting, when we’ve known for so long that voting only serves to legitimize a system that exploits and oppresses us.
The First of May is a day that evokes the age-long struggle of the exploited and oppressed around the world. We remember the so-called "Martyrs of Chicago" and we also remember the two workers – Antonio Verruga and Mariana Torres – killed by the bullets of the Republican Guard, a hundred years ago, on the 13th March 1911, in this same city of Setúbal. In Chicago, in 1886, workers fought for the eight-hour work day, facing the bullets of the police. To conquer them much blood had to be shed. In Setubal, in 1911, workers staged the first general strike after the fall of the monarchy in solidarity with the struggle of the women workers of the canning industry, confronting the armed forces of the Republic.
Today, like yesterday, we have the weapons against us and we find ourselves persecuted by the watchdogs of State and Capital. But today, as yesterday, we bear a new world in our hearts, and their blows against us only makes us believe more in the rightness of the ideals and forms of struggle we stand for.
Against repression, solidarity! Against exploitation, direct action!
United and self-organized, we’ll show them the “crisis”!
International Workers Association - Portuguese Section
Núcleo de Lisboa