Turkey celebrates May Day under emergency rule, over 200 people detained in İstanbul

Turkish riot police detained at least 207 people during May Day celebrations across İstanbul on Monday, according to a statement from the İstanbul Governor’s Office.

The central venue of the celebrations in İstanbul was the public bazaar in İstanbul’s Bakırköy neighborhood since Taksim Square, which is the symbolic venue of May Day festivities, was closed by the Turkish government for the day. Police officers took photos of every banner that was brought by demonstrators to the area, and words such as KHK, or government decree, and OHAL, or state of emergency, were cut out of the banners.

The first police operation targeted the members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) and the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF) İstanbul in the early hours of Monday and and 16 people were detained over terror charges, according to ETHA news agency. ETHA said its reporter Meşale Tolu is also among the detainees.

Celebrations are being held across Turkey to mark May Day under strict security measures due to a state of emergency declared in the country in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15 while the symbolic venue of celebrations, İstanbul’s Taksim Square, remains closed to festivities again.

More than 30,000 police officers, three police helicopters, 120 water cannons were deployed in İstanbul to maintain security during the celebrations while demonstrators are not allowed to enter Taksim Square where thousands of police officers are on duty. Two individuals who wanted to unfurl a banner in Taksim Square were detained on Monday morning.

Major labor unions such as Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK), Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) and the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) gathered in the public bazaar in İstanbul’s Bakırköy neighborhood to mark May Day.

Until 2009, Taksim was off limits to demonstrators following May Day 1977, also known as Bloody May Day, when 34 people were killed after unknown assailants opened fire on the crowd. Since then, May Day in Turkey has always been a source of tension.

In 2009, the government decided to declare May Day an official holiday and opened Taksim Square up for festivities. About three decades after Bloody May Day, under tight security, Taksim Square became the venue of peaceful celebrations aside from a few minor incidents in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Yet, Turkey has been engaged in the same debates on Taksim for the past four years.

In Ankara, the venues of the celebrations were the Kolej Square and the Tandoğan Square. 4,500 police officers from Ankara Police Department were deployed for security.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government declared a state of emergency in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. During emergency rule, which is still in effect, thousands of people have been purged from state institutions on coup charges through controversial government decrees, which cannot be challenged in court. (SCF with turkeypurge.com & turkishminute.com) May 1, 2017

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