ISTANBUL: Turkish riot police detained dozens of protesters trying to reach Istanbul’s main Taksim Square for May Day demonstrations against economic hardship caused by raging inflation.
The Istanbul governor’s office had allowed May Day celebrations to be held in another district and deemed gatherings in all other locations as unauthorised and illegal.
A Reuters journalist saw riot police brawling with and handcuffing protesters, images of which were shown on television by domestic broadcasters.
Police also detained 30 people in central Besiktas and 22 others in Sisli districts, the Demiroren News Agency reported. A statement from the Istanbul governor’s office on Sunday said that 164 protesters had been detained across the city for “attempting to hold illegal demonstrations.”
Marches led by workers and unions are held on May 1 every year as part of International Labor Day celebrations in many countries.
Turkey’s annual inflation rate is expected to rise to 68 percent in April, driven higher by the Russia-Ukraine conflict and rising commodity prices, receding only slightly by the end of the year, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday.
The soaring inflation and the economic hardship it causes were cited in May Day statements from several groups.
“Our main theme this year had to be cost of living,” the head of the Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions (Turk-Is), Ergun Atalay, said as he placed a wreath in Taksim Square and demanded that minimum wages be adjusted monthly to reflect rising prices. “Inflation is announced at the beginning of each month. The inflation rate should be added to wages every month,” he said.
Citizens and trade unions in cities around Europe were taking to the streets for May Day marches, and to put out protest messages to their governments, notably in France where the holiday to honor workers was being used as a rallying cry against newly reelected President Emmanuel Macron.
May Day is a time of high emotion for participants and their causes, with police on the ready.
In Italy, after a two-year pandemic lull, an outdoor mega-concert was set for Rome with rallies and protests in cities across the country. Besides work, peace was an underlying theme with calls for an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Italy’s three main labor unions were focusing their main rally in the hilltop town of Assisi, a frequent destination for peace protests. This year’s slogan is “Working for peace.”
“It’s a May Day of social and civil commitment for peace and labor,” said the head of Italy’s CISL union, Daniela Fumarola.
Other protests were planned far and wide in Europe, including in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, where students and others planned to rally in support of Ukraine as Communists, anarchists and anti-EU groups held their own gatherings.