Turkiye police clash with May Day protesters, skirmishes in France

Turkiye police clash with May Day protesters, skirmishes in France
Turkiye police clash with May Day protesters, skirmishes in France

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Protesters scuffle with riot police as they attempt to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square during a May Day (Labour Day) rally, marking International Workers' Day, at the Sarachane Park aqueduct in Istanbul, on May 1, 2024. — AFP pic

ISTANBUL, May 2 — Turkish police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters and arrested more than 200 people, as skirmishes broke out in France amid May 1 rallies that drew tens of thousands of demonstrators around the world on Wednesday.

More than 42,000 Turkish police were deployed in Istanbul, where 217 people were detained after authorities banned the May 1 Labour Day rallies at the city’s historic Taksim Square.

Some 25 people were arrested in Paris, police said, where some protesters lobbed fireworks and stones at security forces.

In Germany, 10 people were “seriously” injured after a parade float overturned near the southwestern city of Freiburg.

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Police in Istanbul clashed with demonstrators near city hall in the Sarachane district, firing tear gas and rubber bullets to stop protesters breaching barricades, AFP reporters said.

“226 people were arrested, including 217 in Istanbul, for having demonstrated in unauthorised areas and failed to heed police warnings,” the interior ministry said.

In a message posted on X, formerly Twitter, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya earlier said that protesters had been “attempting to walk to the Taksim Square and attack our police officers.”

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Tall metal barriers were put up around the square, where authorities have banned rallies since 2013, when it was the focus of demonstrations against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

“We have demonstrated our will to celebrate May Day at Taksim Square. We have legal grounds,” Arzu Cerkezoglu, secretary general of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK) told AFP.

In 2023, Turkiye’s top constitutional court ruled that the closure of Taksim Square for protests was a violation of rights.

“Taksim is an important symbol for us,” said Cerkezoglu.

Taksim was a rallying ground for May Day celebrations until 1977, when at least 34 people were killed during protests. Authorities opened it up again in 2010, but it was then shut after the 2013 protests.

The MLSA rights group said several journalists were pushed to the ground during the troubles.

Main roads across Istanbul were closed to traffic while public transport including ferries and underground trains were halted because of the security clampdown.

‘Here for the workers’

In France, turnout was much lower than last year when a large part of the country was up in arms about a deeply unpopular pensions reform.

The powerful CGT union said more than 200,000 people took to the streets in France — less than 10 per cent of the number they claimed demonstrated last year.

“I’m here for the workers, it’s important to mobilise for our rights,” said a 27-year-old protester in Paris called Louise, who declined to give her surname.

Other protests were held in Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon and the western city of Nantes, where an AFP photographer saw skirmishes between police and demonstrators.

In Germany, 30 people were injured including “10 seriously”, according to police, after a parade float being dragged by a tractor toppled onto its side around a bend in the town of Kandern near Freiburg.

Some of the injured were taken by helicopter to hospital in neighbouring Switzerland, police said.

More than 2,000 people demonstrated in Athens, Greek police said, and at least 2,500 members of the major Tunisian UGTT trade union protested in central Tunis.

Mass rallies took place all over Latin America.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro used a May Day rally to announce his government was cutting diplomatic ties with Israel, whose leader he described as “genocidal” over the war in Gaza.

Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former union leader, vowed to “make the very rich pay more” in a address to gathered workers in Sao Paulo.

Thousands protested in Buenos Aires and other Argentine cities against the economic liberalisation agenda and labour reforms of self-described “anarcho-capitalist” President Javier Milei.

In Caracas, workers demonstrating against low wages clashed with supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on motorcycles.

May Day rallies were held in several Asian countries.

Tens of thousands of people flooded Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo to attend rival May Day rallies staged by three of the main political parties as a springboard for presidential elections later this year.

In Taiwan, thousands of workers gathered in front of the presidential office demanding better working conditions. — AFP

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