As tension between the opposition, unions and the government over the opening of Istanbul’s Taksim Square for May 1 continues, the police have taken severe measures against attempts to enter the area.
The iconic square will be closed to entry on May 1 with roadblocks, and 15,000 police officers will be assigned to work in the area on the day, along with 50 water cannon police trucks (TOMA), some of which have been brought in from neighboring cities for the occasion. Additional surveillance cameras (MOBESE) have also been installed in the square.
Meanwhile, a lawyer in Ankara has applied to the Constitutional Court in a bid to overturn the government’s ban on celebrating May Day at Taksim Square.
Lawyer Sedat Vural from the Ankara Bar Association individually applied to the Constitutional Court, on the grounds of freedom of assembly and expression. Vural cited the 34th Article of the Turkish Constitution, titled “The right to hold meetings and demonstration marches.” The article reads as follows: “Everyone has the right to hold unarmed and peaceful meetings and demonstration marches without prior permission.”
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he would not allow May Day gatherings in Taksim Square, the scene of protests that have dogged the government since last summer. A similar decision in May last year to ban the use of the square – a traditional and symbolic rallying point for unions – led to violence, as police cracked down on protesters in a prequel to the wave of nationwide anti-government Gezi Park demonstrations last June.
Opposition parties and unions have objected to the ban on Taksim and said they will attempt to march to the iconic city center.