Thousands of people across Turkey celebrate May Day

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Thousands of people gathered across Turkey, including Istanbul and the capital Ankara on May 1 to mark International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day.

Labor unions and political parties, including the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), took part in a major rally in Istanbul’s Maltepe district.

This year, the main May Day gathering was held at the Maltepe coast on the Anatolian side of Istanbul rather than in Taksim Square—a traditional rallying point on the European side.

Tight security was visible at all entrances and exits to venues in the Maltepe, Beyoğlu, Şişli, and Beşiktaş districts. Some 26,174 police personnel were on duty in the city.

Public transport was affected by the rallies, as several roads were blocked while metro stations in Ankara and Istanbul were shut down.

In Ankara, the main May 1 events were held at Anadolu Square. Around 4,500 police officers backed by helicopters were on duty.

The march in the capital began from the Atatürk Culture Center in Kazım Karabekir Street and later culminated into an open-air meeting at Anadolu Square.

Turkish police had taken tight security measures ahead of the May Day celebrations in various parts of Istanbul, including Beşiktaş and Taksim Square.

Authorities banned public gatherings in Beşiktaş and Taksim Square.

Taksim Square was entirely barricaded off by police, with images taken from the air showing the usually thronged urban space deserted aside from officers.

Over 80 detained in Istanbul

Still, small groups of demonstrators, chanting “Long live May 1” and “Taksim cannot be off limits on May 1” tried to push their way into the square throughout the day.

Police detained over 80 people across the city and at least four people who wanted to marchtowards Taksim Square.

A group of 50 people who gathered in Istanbul’s Besiktaş district and chanted slogans were also detained.

Some unions, including the left-wing Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK) and the Confederation of Turkish Real Trade Unions (HAK-İŞ), commemorated victims of the May 1, 1977, massacre by leaving flowers at the Taksim Republic Monument (TaksimCumhuriyet Anıtı).

Nilgün Türkler, daughter of the founder and first president of DİSK, Kemal Türkler, was also present at Taksim Square. Kemal Türkler was among the 37 people who died on May 1, 1977, when unidentified gunmen fired on a crowd of protesters.

Meanwhile, a group of representatives from HAK-İŞ, including its Istanbul provincial head Mustafa Şişman, observed a minute’s silence in commemoration of the 1977 victims at the Taksim Republic Monument. Later, Şişman held a speech here, citing the problems of workers and wished for a more “free and democratic Turkey.”

“We are out here to abolish the reasons that have led to the state of emergency’s extension, for a more prosperous and democratic Turkey, and for our country’s future. We are saying ‘no’ to deunionization, unsecurity, deregulation, new privatization, gray economy, employment for low wages, and every kind of work and behavior that is incompatible with human dignity,” Şimşek said.

In 2010, thousands of people gathered in Taksim Square for the first time in more than 30 years, but since 2012, bans have re-emerged on May Day gatherings there.

May 1 is celebrated by many labor unions and workers worldwide. It is an official holiday in many countries, including Turkey. Workers and activists worldwide mark the day with rallies demanding governments to address their labor issues.

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