Turkey: May Day marchers defy protest ban

Clashes rocked central Istanbul on May 1 as Turkish protesters attempted to defy a government ban on May Day rallies at the city's iconic Taksim Square. Police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to demonstrators, some of whom responded with hurled fire-bombs. Authorities shut parts of the city's public transport system, erected steel barricades and deployed thousands of riot police to block access to the square. Only a handful of trade union leaders were allowed into the area under police guard to lay flowers commemorating the deaths of at least 34 people there during a May Day gathering in 1977.

With the exception of one year—2010—May Day gatherings in Taksim Square have been banned since the 1977 massacre, in which an unidentified gunman opened fire on the rally there, killing some and setting off a stampede in which more people were crushed to death. Gezi Park, within Taksim Square, was the focus of last year's protest movement in Turkey. (EuroNews, Reuters, May 1)

A crowd of leaders and members of the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (CTTU) gathered on before the march in in front of the CTTU offices to for a ceremony commemorating the 1977 Taksim Square massacre. CTTU chairman Ergün Atalay said, "Unfortunately it has been 37 years and we still do not know the killers of our 34 brothers. Nobody knows why and for what reason they were killed… We want to know the reason of this massacre." (Daily Sabah, May 1)

See our reports on last year's May Day mobilizations.