05/01/2009, 00.00
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May Day in Istanbul amidst flowers and some clashes with police

by Geries Othman
For the first time in 30 years Labour Day is celebrated. Taksim Square is cordoned off by police. A group of trade union representatives places a flower wreath in memory of the 1977 victims. But some demonstrators attack police and break windows of banks and supermarkets.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – May Day was celebrated once again in Turkey after 30 years, but it also saw clashes between protesters and police.

Istanbul’s main square, Taksim Square, was deserted and cordoned off from the early hours of the morning. Here 32 years ago 36 workers lost their lives in clashes between police and demonstrators during May day celebrations. Since then no demonstration has taken place.

Three decades later Labour Day celebrations were allowed once again. A statutory holiday, this day saw rallies and public demonstrations in every Turkish city.

According to Istanbul police chief no one could take over Taksim Square; only trade union and political leaders could be there after prior authorisation.

Thousands of policemen were deployed to protect this “disputed space” and block access to it during a ceremony organised for the first time to commemorate the 1977 victims.

Under the watchful eye of police demonstrators made their way along the streets near the Bosporus waving the flags of trade union federations DISK and KESK, leftwing parties and the pro-Kurdish DTP, shouting slogans like ‘Hand in Hand against Fascism’, ‘Repression will not stop us,’ ‘Long live May Day,’ ‘Long live the Revolution and Socialism.’

A group of trade unionists placed a wreath of red and white carnations at the base of the monument erected in memory of ‘Bloody May Day’. Two police officers handed out flowers to those present.

On side streets, young men with masks or bandanas using slingshots threw missiles and Molotov cocktails at police, breaking the windows of banks and supermarkets.

Using water cannons and tear gas, anti-riot police dispersed the angry demonstrators, arresting some.

“These are not workers and they have nothing to do with workers. These are radical groups and separatists provoking the police,” Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler said.

After the demonstration was over and crowds dispersed, he noted that despite everything he was satisfied. “Compared to past years,” he said, “I can say that everything went off smoothly.”

Big demonstrations also took place in Ankara, Izmir and other Turkish cities.

Now reactions from trade unions and the government are expected.

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