Around 100 people showed up for a May Day rally this afternoon in Pack Square. Protesters focused better rights for workers, free education and opposed deportation of undocumented immigrants, among other issues. Police presence was light and the event remained peaceful.
The events were organized by a collection of local labor and activists groups, including Asheville Mutual Aid and Veterans for Peace, along with the local chapters of Industrial Workers of the World and the International Socialist Organization. While some of the fliers around town mentioned a focus on conditions in the service industry (and one protester's sign read "Asheville deserves better than small business owners") most of the major speeches were readings of historical speeches given by leftist and labor figures like Elizabeth Flynn Gurley or Emma Goldman. Some speakers did focus their remarks on more immediate topics, including last year's immigration raid on the Shogun Buffet, resulting in the detention of 12 people ("their only crime was to show up for a day of work," one speaker said).
Protesters marched through downtown, chanting and singing, before winding their way back to Pack Square and dispersing. Asheville Police Department presence remained light throughout the marches, mostly consisting of bicycle police who rode around the marchers and sometimes stopped traffic to let them by. The overall mood was cheerful on both sides, with protesters playing "Eye of the Tiger" and bantering with the APD officers.
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