Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The May Day celebrations in Turkey were characterized by
severe episodes of violence, with the epicenter in Taksim Square now a symbol
of protest against the arrogance and the excessive power of Prime Minister
Erdogan and his party.
The clashes began when thousands of protesters tried to head towards the square, defying the ban announced by the Prime Minister in his usual month's end address on the state of the nation. Speaking to the population, Erdogan "invited" Turkish citizens not to demonstrate.
In the same speech, the prime minister again lashed out "against those who want to undermine the sacred values of this country, be they religious or social. These people will be called to account for their actions: they are nothing but a tool in the hands of bigger powers".
Erdogan was referring to Fethullah Gulen , an Islamic scholar and one-time ally of Erdogan. He is now considered the mastermind of the scandals that targeted numerous government officials, including the prime minister himself. Days ago Turkey called for his extradition from the United States, to force him to return home where he will likely face a trial.
The clashes yesterday began after unions sought to commemorate the victims of May 1, 1977, the 34 civilians killed while celebrating Labor Day in Taksim Square. But now the square is synonymous with protests against the arrogance of Erdogan, who responded by mobilizing the police.
Approximately 40 thousand police and security force personnel blocked access to the square, while public transport was paralyzed blocking millions of people. The authorities also closed the roads, suspended ferry services on the Bosphorus and posted soldiers and police to monitor subway stations. Everything possible was done to prevent the movement of the mass of protesters.
The first episodes of violence erupted when protesters - formed by the historical confederations of workers and other left wing groups - tried to reach the square from the Sisli district, home to the union's headquarters. The police intervened violently using tear gas, water pumps and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. In turn the protesters responded by throwing stones at least 142 people were arrested and 90 others were injured .
Only the union Türk - Is ( or the Confederation of Labor , which is historically identified with state policies), was allowed to lay a wreath of flowers in Taksim Square. The same union had organized another rally in a square in Kantiköy, ancient Chalcedon, on the Asian side of Istanbul, with government permission.