“The traditional means of protesting, gathering friends together, is unsafe at this time, so our protest looks like a car caravan.”
Essential workers led hundreds of May Day protests on Friday, including nurses calling for better protective gear in hospitals and Amazon workers holding walkouts to demand closures of warehouses where staffers are infected with COVID-19.
But how do you protest during a global pandemic, when social distancing is crucial and a lack of protective gear is a key demand of workers?
May 1 is historically the biggest protest day for the labor movement, with large rallies held across the globe. With over 30 million US workers filing for unemployment since the pandemic began, and essential workers risking their lives for company profits, advocates say this year’s protests felt even more vital.
However, protests looked different this year. On social media, thousands of people shared posts calling for a one-day boycott of Walmart, Instacart, Amazon, Whole Foods, Target, and Shipt.
Fewer protests are in person on the street, and those that are involve attendees standing 6 feet away from each other. Others are using car caravan protests, which have become popular since the pandemic began, including groups ranging from those calling for government lockdowns to end and supporters of California’s farmworkers.
“Some of these social distancing protests are quite dramatic and quite powerful,” said Ray Brescia, professor of law at Albany Law School and author of The Future of Change: How Technology Shapes Social Revolutions. He likened the creativity of the May Day protests to the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Angela Gatdula, a nurse working in a COVID-19 ward at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, spoke to BuzzFeed News over the honks from the car caravan, which she organized with other unionized nurses from National Nurses United and the California Nursing Association.
“The traditional means of protesting, gathering friends together, is unsafe at this time, so our protest looks like a car caravan,” said Gatdula, who got sick with COVID-19 while treating patients.