May Day Brings Violence and Riots in Turkey
May 1 is a traditional workers' day holiday across most of Europe, with most of the countries on the continent having the day off (the UK and Ireland save the day off for the following Monday). It coincides with a traditional pagan holiday welcoming spring, and such festivities are a big part of the celebrations. But it is also a traditional day for labour protests, although the intensity of those has tapered off over the years.
Berlin, for example, used to see massive street protests. But over the past five years they've dwindled to almost nothing. In fact May Day in Europe is quickly coming to resemble the watered-down version that is celebrated in September in the United States (it was put at that time as a compromise with unions because the government thought the traditional May 1 was too radical). Like in the United States, where few people could tell you what Labor Day celebrates, May 1 in the Europe has now also begun to lose its meaning in Europe.
However in other areas of the world it definitely has not. In Turkey the day still has huge significance. Though it is a normal working day in Turkey, the government has had to resist intense union pressure this year to make it a day off. Today has already seen violent clashes in Istanbul.
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Turkish riot police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse crowds gathering for an outlawed May Day rally in central Istanbul on Thursday, witnesses said.
Thousands of police were stationed across the city centre to block access to the main Taksim Square, where three major trade union confederations have pledged to mobilise up to 500,000 people in defiance of an official ban.
May Day demonstrations in Istanbul have been marked by clashes between police and protesters in the past and authorities said they would use force to prevent the rally happening in the centre of the city.
Officials have cited intelligence reports that radical groups planned to stage violent protests during the rally. Militant leftists and Kurdish separatists frequently clash with police at demonstrations.
Last year dozens were injured in violent street battles on the 30th anniversary of the deaths of 37 people who were shot by an unknown gunman or trampled to death in May Day demonstrations in Taksim Square in 1977.
Over the past two years the struggles of Egyptian workers have changedthe country's political map. For the first time in more than fivedecades the government will really have to address workers' demands onMay Day rather than pay the customary lip service to Egypt's'honourable workforce'", says Mohamed Al-Attar, a strike leader andveteran worker at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in the northernindustrial city of Mahala Al-Kubra where nearly a quarter of all publicsector textile and clothing workers are employed.
Hundreds of people were streaming into the James Motlatsi stadium inOrkney near Klerksdorp on Thursday to celebrate Workers' Day.
Jubilant workers wearing red T-shirts were singing liberation songs andawaiting an address by African National Congress President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma is expected to address workers about the history and importance ofWorkers' Day and challenges such as poverty and unemployment.
Labour Day, once an occasion to bring most of India’s organisedworkers together, was a relatively insipid affair around the countryThursday, with trade unions organising a few rallies. Governments inthe Communist-ruled states of Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura observeda holiday. There were small trade union rallies in some towns besides acandle-light rally by sex workers in Kolkata demanding recognition asorganised labour.
It was a government holiday in Maharashtra too, but that was because it is the foundation day of the state.
In Bhubaneswar, journalists observed Labour Day as a holiday. So there will be no local newspaper in the city Friday morning.