Police detain dozens during May Day demonstrations in İstanbul

Turkish police detain a protester as he and others attempt to march to Taksim Square, at Mecidiyekoy district near Taksim, during a May Day (Labour Day) rally, marking International Workers' Day, in Istanbul, on May 1, 2024. - Turkish police on May 1, 2024 detained dozens of protesters attempting to tear down barricades in different districts of Istanbul after authorities banned May 1 rallies at the city's main Taksim Square. (Photo by KEMAL ASLAN / AFP)

Turkish police on Wednesday detained dozens of people attempting to tear down barricades in various districts of İstanbul after authorities banned May Day demonstrations in the city’s central Taksim Square, Agence France-Presse reported on Wednesday.

Thousands of police officers were deployed throughout İstanbul, blocking off even small side streets with metal barriers to prevent groups of demonstrators from gathering.

The authorities have banned rallies in Taksim Square since the protests against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government in 2013.

In the Beşiktaş district, police arrested at least 30 left-wing demonstrators shouting “Taksim cannot be banned,” an AFP journalist on the scene reported.

One demonstrator was dragged on the ground by police and his group detained.

A further 30 people were detained in the Şişli district.

The main roads in İstanbul were closed to traffic, and public transportation, including ferries and subways, was halted.

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

CHP leader Özgür Özel, accompanied by İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu and the labor unions, gathered in Saraçhane, where city hall is located.

“We will continue to fight until Taksim is free,” Özel said.

In 2023 the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that closing Taksim Square to protests was a violation of rights.

In the wake of insistence by labor unions and some political parties to hold a May Day demonstration in Taksim, the İstanbul Governor’s Office announced measures aimed at slowing public transportation across the city on Wednesday.

The governor’s office said in a statement on Tuesday that some roads would be closed to traffic, while there would be interruptions and closures in roads and sea traffic lanes.

The İstanbul police also set up barricades and fences around Taksim Square on Tuesday to prevent the demonstrators from reaching the area on Wednesday. İstanbul Governor Davut Gül said on Tuesday that more than 42,000 law enforcement officers would be on duty in İstanbul on May Day, while calling on people to gather in the 40 venues designated by the government for May Day events.

Some likened the measures taken by the police and the governor’s office to a temporary emergency rule in Turkey’s most densely populated city.

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