May Day, Anarchists and a Woman from China

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Yesterday was quite the day.

The weather forecast called for rain throughout the day, yet the sun popped out and I was confident I could make it to and from City Hall on my scooter without getting drenched.

Then, on a day to celebrate the effective and necessary role of labor unions, along with a separate march celebrating the importance of immigrants and the need for immigration reform, chaotic violence and property destruction occurred downtown.

Self-described anarchists mingled with peaceful May Day demonstrators at Westlake Park, covered their faces with masks or bandanas and engaged in destructive acts of vandalism and violence.  It stopped almost as quickly as it started; the anarchists pulled off their black clothing and melted away into the larger crowd once again, though not before some were arrested. (The Seattle Times has extensive coverage of all this in today’s newspaper.)

Aoxiang Liao NW Asian WeeklyAbout an hour after this senseless violence, I received a totally unrelated email from a friend who provided a link to an article in the Northwest Asian Weekly about Aoxiang Liao, a woman who immigrated to the United States from China in 2008. Liao recently graduated from a special English language training class provided by OneAmerica.

I couldn’t help but contrast what Aoxiang Liao has accomplished—moving to a new country, learning English, getting a job, getting engaged with her community—with the anarchists who committed senseless violence yesterday afternoon in our downtown.  Liao represents a hopeful, productive future; the anarchists represent destructive despair. Liao represents the other immigrants and refugees who have come to our country and those who wish to come here, people who make our larger society stronger. The anarchists shift attention to themselves, a twisted narcissism that plays on the aspirations—and legitimate protests—of others for their own self-aggrandizement.  Liao uses her skills and obvious capabilities to build her life in her new country and contribute to the common welfare. The anarchists destroy what exists and refuse to engage with our broader society.

For me, I’ll stand with Aoxiang Liao and what she represents.

As I rode home last evening, I passed Westlake Park. There were a few protesters milling about; it was peaceful. I saw boarded up store fronts and I wondered what the day’s events would cost, both in dollars and lost productivity. And then the downpour began and I got drenched; the city was being cleansed.