As it happened: Police keep Taksim Square shut by means of tear gas and water cannon on tense May Day in Istanbul


Istanbul experienced another eventful May Day as police prevented any attempt by demonstrators to reach Taksim Square by resorting to tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets.

Chaotic scenes of protesters braving police crackdowns that have become customary in Istanbul were once again on display as unions insisted on their right to gather at the iconic square for Labor Day, defying a ban by authorities.

Up to 142 demonstrators were detained and scores were injured as police confronted unions and organizations, including the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK) or members of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and other parties, in the Beşiktaş and the Şişli district of Istanbul. Nearly 40,000 police officers where deployed to cut all roads connecting to Taksim Square and to keep the whole area at the center of Istanbul under a virtual blockade. Tension was also present in Ankara, where the governor’s office mimicked Istanbul by banning May Day rallies in the city’s symbolic Kızılay Square.

Elsewhere across the country, May Day rallies more resembled their purpose, a cheerful celebration of Workers’ Day.

Here is a minute-by-minute development of events in Istanbul and other cities:

19.00: The Istanbul Medical Association said scores of people had been injured by plastic bullets, water cannon and tear gas fired by the police in Istanbul. “At least four people suffered a head concussion, one person had a sight-threatening eye injury, one person broke his arm, between 15 and 20 people were injured after being hit by tear-gas canisters and hundreds were admitted to hospital due to high exposure to tear gas,” Ümit Şen, a doctor member of the chambers’ executive committee, said in a statement.

18.00: The Istanbul Governor’s Office has stated that 142 demonstrators have been detained and 90 people, 19 of whom are police officers, were injured and treated in hospital during May Day clashes in the city. Twenty-three people are still being treated, the statement added. The numbers provided by the governor’s office did not take into account those who have been treated outside of hospitals.

17.10: A woman in Ankara has braved police by standing in front of a water cannon truck (TOMA), refusing to let it proceed on its way. The woman, wearing a distinctive bag, did not move despite officers warning that they would resort to firing water if she did not let them pass. She finally sat on the track, holding her ID in her hands, as police fired pressurized water.

16.25: Two brothers of Gezi victim Ethem Sarısülük, who died after being shot by a police officer during the Gezi protests in Ankara last June, have been detained by police during the May Day rallies in Ankara, the Progressive Lawyers’ Association has announced.

16.15: Gatherings in Istanbul’s Asian neighborhood of Kadıköy have concluded without any police intervention, after the Governor’s Office had allocated the main rally area as a permitted location. However, the authorities have warned that this could be the last May Day to be held in Kadıköy, as another huge rally area is currently under construction in Maltepe, through the pouring of more concrete into the Marmara Sea.

15.45: Authorities have now lifted restrictions on Istanbul’s road and ferry traffic, following hours of police interventions on the May Day rallies.

15.40: May Day rallies were much more peaceful in the southeast. In Diyarbakır, demonstrators opened banners reading “Biji yek gulan” (“Happy Labor Day” in Kurdish) to celebrate.

15.30: A group of demonstrators have attempted to beat three police officers, who found themselves surrounded by them during the crackdown in Istanbul’s Şişli district. They were eventually saved by the intervention of other demonstrators.


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