May Day protesters started their march at St. Mary’s Church and made their way down Jackson Street towards the Chinatown-International District carrying signs that read "Essential And Excluded," "Ethiopian Troops out of Tigray!, Amhara Militia out of Tigray!, Eritrean Troops Out of Tigray!," and "Stop the War on Women's Bodies."

PHOTO ESSAY: El Comité’s Annual May Day March 2021

by Maile Anderson and Ronnie Estoque


Around 150 people marched from the Central District to downtown on Saturday, May 1, as part of El Comité’s annual May Day or International Workers’ Day march. It was one of the smallest turnouts in two decades, but the spirit of the protesters was undeterred as they walked on behalf of immigrant and workers rights. On their way, attendees passed through Chinatown-International District where JM Wong, co-founder of Massage Parlor Outreach Project, spoke out against the recent rise in hate and violence against Asian Americans. Other speakers included Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and Washington State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos.

This year’s Trabaiadorxs Esenciales y Excluidxs (Essential and Excluded Workers) march highlighted the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on vulnerable and essential workers. “2020 became a major challenge for workers,” reads the event listing on El Comité’s website. “As a result of the virus, thousands of businesses closed, some forever. Millions of workers were furloughed or lost their jobs. Many lives were thrown into a world of unemployment, poverty, compounding rental debt, and homelessness.” Protesters also marched for immigration reform, equitable vaccine access, cancelling rent debt and evictions, and solidarity against police brutality, white supremacy, and systemic racism.


Duwamish Tribal Member Blake Shelafoe speaks to the growing crowd at May Day about the importance of honoring Indigenous land and struggle in the region. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)
May Day protesters started their march at St. Mary’s Church and made their way down Jackson Street towards the Chinatown-International District. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)
May Day protesters congregate themselves at the intersection of South King Street and Maynard Avenue South to listen to various speeches from community members. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)
Washington State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos speaks by Hing Hay Park and acknowledges the assassination of Filipino American labor organizers (International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union Local 37) Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes on June 1,1981 in Pioneer Square. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)
JM Wong, organizer with the Massage Parlor Outreach Project, speaks to the importance of being in solidarity with local Asian immigrant massage workers. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)
A May Day speaker demands justice for Oscar Perez-Giron, who was shot and killed by King County Sheriff’s Deputy Malcolm Elliott at the Sodo Station in 2014. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)
Trabaiadorxs Esenciales y Excluidxs (Essential and Excluded Workers) march organizer Monserrat Padilla speaks to protesters, highlighting the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on vulnerable and essential workers, on the steps of St. Mary’s Church. (Photo: Maile Anderson)
Protester carries a sign of a farmer that reads “We are Home; We are Essential.” (Photo: Maile Anderson)
Protesters carry the official flag of the Indigenous Purépecha people as they march down South Jackson Street. (Photo: Maile Anderson)
A crowd of protesters stop to listen to speakers while holding signs that call for the decriminalization of immigrants. (Photo: Maile Anderson)
Youth protesters proudly carry the flags of Honduras and Mexico. (Photo: Maile Anderson)
The Trabaiadorxs Esenciales y Excluidxs march passes the Bush Hotel on South Jackson Street. (Photo: Maile Anderson)
Protesters carry a sign that reads, “Nosotros tambien somos trabajadores esenciales,” which translates to “We are also essential workers.” This year’s Trabaiadorxs Esenciales y Excluidxs march highlighted the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on vulnerable and essential workers. (Photo: Maile Anderson)
Protester carries a sign that reads, “Immigrants are the backbone of the American economy.” (Photo: Maile Anderson)
A speaker addresses the marchers, demanding immigration reform, equitable vaccine access, cancelling rent debt and evictions, and solidarity against police brutality, white supremacy, and systemic racism. (Photo: Maile Anderson)

Maile Anderson has had the immense privilege to travel to amazing places with a camera beside her. She believes documenting the changing world, whether in the form of protests or other cultures, is important work that heightens awareness in this time of social justice. Follow her on IG: @tinypicturetaker.

Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.

Featured Image: May Day protesters started their march at St. Mary’s Church and made their way down Jackson Street towards the Chinatown-International District. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)

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