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Turkey police clash with May Day protesters, skirmishes in France

Thousands protest over salaries, Gaza at France May Day marches
Source: Video Screenshot
Turkish police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters and arrested more than 200 people and skirmishes broke out in France, as May 1 rallies around the world drew tens of thousands of demonstrators on Wednesday.

More than 42,000 Turkish police were deployed in Istanbul, where 217 people were detained after authorities banned the May 1 Labour Day rallies at the city’s historic Taksim Square.

Some 25 people were arrested in Paris, police said, where some protesters lobbed fireworks and stones at security forces.

In Germany, 10 people were “seriously” injured after a parade float overturned near the southwestern city of Freiburg.

Police in Istanbul clashed with demonstrators near city hall in the Sarachane district, firing tear gas and rubber bullets to stop protesters breaching barricades, AFP reporters said.

“226 people were arrested, including 217 in Istanbul, for having demonstrated in unauthorised areas and failed to heed police warnings,” the interior ministry said.

In a message posted on X, formerly Twitter, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya earlier said that protesters had been “attempting to walk to the Taksim Square and attack our police officers.”

Tall metal barriers were put up around the square, where authorities have banned rallies since 2013, when it was the focus of demonstrations against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

“We have demonstrated our will to celebrate May Day at Taksim Square. We have legal grounds,” Arzu Cerkezoglu, secretary general of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK) told AFP.

In 2023, Turkey’s top constitutional court ruled that the closure of Taksim Square for protests was a violation of rights.

“Taksim is an important symbol for us. Taksim means May Day, Taksim means labour,” said Cerkezoglu.


– ‘Taksim belongs to workers’ –


Taksim was a rallying ground for May Day celebrations until 1977, when at least 34 people were killed during protests. Authorities opened it up again in 2010, but it was then shut after the 2013 protests.

In the Besiktas district, one protester was dragged along the ground by police while the MLSA rights group said several journalists were pushed to the ground during the troubles.

Main roads across Istanbul were closed to traffic while public transport including ferries and underground trains were halted because of the security clampdown. Landmarks such as the Topkapi palace were cordoned off.

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and unions had pressed the government to open the square for labour rallies but Erdogan on Tuesday warned against any provocation.


– ‘Here for the workers’ –


In France, turnout was much lower than last year when a large part of the country was up in arms about a deeply unpopular pensions reform.

The powerful CGT union said more than 200,000 people took to the streets in France — less than 10 percent of the number they claimed demonstrated last year.

“I’m here for the workers, it’s important to mobilise for our rights,” said a 27-year-old protester in Paris called Louise, who declined to give her surname.

Other protests were held in Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon and the western city of Nantes, where an AFP photographer saw skirmishes between police and demonstrators.

In Germany, 30 people were injured including “10 seriously”, according to police, after a parade float being dragged by a tractor toppled onto its side around a bend in the town of Kandern near Freiburg.

Some of the injured were taken by helicopter to hospital in neighbouring Switzerland, police said.

More than 2,000 people demonstrated in Athens, Greek police said, demanding higher salaries and pensions, more jobs and the restoration of collective conventions, alongside a strike that heavily affected urban and maritime transport.

At least 2,500 members of the major Tunisian UGTT trade union protested in central Tunis in defence of “social dialogue and union rights”.

“Work, freedom, national dignity,” chanted protesters draped in Tunisian and Palestinian flags as they marched down the central Bourguiba avenue complaining of high prices.

Tens of thousands of people flooded Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo to attend rival May Day rallies staged by three of the main political parties as a springboard for presidential elections later this year.

In Taiwan, thousands of workers gathered in front of the presidential office demanding better working conditions, while in Hong Kong —  where protests have largely been quashed following the passage of national security laws — four members of the opposition group League of Social Democrats staged a brief petition outside the government’s headquarters to call for higher salaries.

About the author


Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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