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Celebrating workers’ rights in Germany and Denmark

A May Day rally in Dresden, Germany on Wednesday. (Lina Marie Schulenkorf/YJI)

Copenhagen, DENMARK and Dresden, GERMANY – The 1st of May is International Workers Day here and in some other countries. It’s a day when workers celebrate the gains they’ve made and remember the struggles laborers have endured. 

According to Britannica, it was in 1889 when an international federation of socialist parties and workers unions designed the 1st of May to remember the Haymarket Riot in Chicago. While the uprising ended in bloodshed and gained sad notoriety, the day is now celebrated internationally. 

At the same time, it is not just a day of remembrance, but also often serves as a platform for workers’ demands against the capitalist system or for better working conditions. 


Lord Mayor Sophie Haestrop Andersen making a speech at the Workers Museum. (Noah Haynes/YJI)

In Copenhagen, followers of the Social Democrats – the party in power – began their day bright and early. The first event was at the Workers Museum in the center of Copenhagen and started at 9.30 a.m. with speeches from politicians from the party.  

Speakers included Lord Mayor Sophie Haestrop Andersen, Magnus Heunicke, the climate minister; Lars Gaardhøj, the Chairman of the Regional Council for the Capital Region Health service and Anton Bach Thomassen from the Social Democrat youth party. 

After the speeches there was a peaceful march from the Workers Museum to a large park in Copenhagen called Faelledparken, headed by the Copenhagen Post Orchestra which is an orchestra started by Postmen back in 1922.  

There were three main socialist parties represented in the park: the Social Democrats, Socialistisk Folkeparti (Socialist People’s Party) and Enhedlisten (The red-green alliance).  Each had their own tents where they sold merchandise or spoke with members and visitors.  

Also represented were different unions such as 3F and others.

A wide range of ages attended the event and there was an area for young people.  

In the young people’s area there were girls crocheting together in the sun. (Noah Haynes/YJI)

On the main stage were more speeches. Justice Minister Peter Hummelgård was interrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters who could be heard blowing airhorns and yelling over his speech. 

Protesters, who waved flags, tried to get Hummelgård to leave the stage by shouting profanities and making rude gestures. 

A monitoring police officer informed a Youth Journalism International reporter that protesters’ actions were allowed as free speech.  

Police could be seen later moving in towards the protesters after Hummelgård finished his speech.  

Pro-Palestinian protesters yelling, blowing air horns and making rude gestures towards Justice Minister Peter Hummelgård during his speech. (Noah Haynes/YJI)


In Dresden, the Labour Day demonstrations began the evening of April 29 with the “Take Back the Night” demonstration for women, lesbians, intersex, non-binary, trans and agender people. 

More demonstrations by a wide variety of groups continued on May 1. Labour Day is an official public holiday in Germany, so the demonstrations took place throughout the day. 

The “grievance box for wage labour” set up at DIE LINKE’s election campaign event. Various sentences can be read on it, such as “What I want from politics…”, “For me, a good life is…”, “Capitalism sucks because…”, “What annoys me about my wage labour is that…”, which are filled in by passers-by. (Lina Marie Schulenkorf/YJI)

May Day began in Dresden with the largest demonstration organized for the first time in the city by the German Trade Union Confederation in Dresden. 

There were speeches by Hubertus Heil, the German Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, as well as a speech by Sylvia Bühler, an executive board member of the trade union ver.di. 

The demonstration ended with a rally on Dresden’s Schlossplatz and featured a roundtable discussion on the European elections with five different Saxon candidates. 

The trade union confederation’s demands centered on the introduction of collective bargaining, participation in shaping socially just technical change, reform of the German debt brake and a continued reliable welfare state. 

One of the May Day festivals in Dresden. (Lina Marie Schulenkorf/YJI)

The Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, a federation of trade unions, also clearly distanced itself from the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and clearly stated in its invitation that the right-wing party had “nothing to offer employees” and that the solution lay “in togetherness and not in hatred and division.” 

“The AfD is not an alternative for Germany, it is a nightmare for our country,” said Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Hubertus Heil. 

Maximilian Krah talks about his plans should he enter the European Parliament. (Lina Marie Schulenkorf/YJI)

Barely 200 meters away on Dresden’s Neumarkt at nearly the exact time, the European top candidate Maximilian Krah was celebrating his election campaign comeback after numerous scandals. Krah is top candidate of the Alternative for Germany party in the election next month to see who will win a seat in the European Parliament.  

Left-wing counter-demonstrations took place in the city and at the Neumarkt, a large public plaza in Dresden. 

Seebrücke Dresden, an organization that aids refugees, was there to disrupt Krah’s campaign event.  

Another counter-protest formed as a march against the ultra-right-wing Free Saxons, who advocate for the secession of the German state of Saxony, which includes the city of Dresden. 

Other demonstrations included the “Anarchist First May” demonstration, which moved through Dresden as a procession and demanded the introduction of the six-hour day as well as the de-centralization of power and equal rights in an anarchist system.  

The anarchist demonstration marching through Dresden. (Lina Marie Schulenkorf/YJI)

The Social Democratic Party of Germany and DIE LINKE (The Left) organized street and family festivals for May Day. Smaller parties, such as the Communist Party of Germany, were also present at the Left Party street rally. 

According to the Saxony police, the demonstrations remained relatively calm. 

Noah Haynes is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Lina Marie Schulenkorf is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Dresden, Germany.  

They collaborated on this report. 

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