Workers who wanted to read out a statement about their May 1 International Workers’ Day program were beaten and detained by the police in İstanbul yesterday, the Evrensel daily reported.
The demonstrators were former factory workers who have been protesting dismissal from their jobs due to their membership in the All Automotive and Metal Workers Union (TOMIS).
They were met with a police line and were told they were not allowed to meet due to COVID-19 measures. However, when the workers insisted on making their statement, the police responded with force, kicking some workers to the ground and beating them.
Musa Piroğlu, a deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), joined the workers in their demonstration. “The government is pushing people towards poverty,” he said in speaking to the Mezopotamya news agency. “They want to silence workers, who are the ones grappling with poverty. They [the government] want to cover up their exploitation.”
According to the demonstrators, authorities are using the pandemic regulations as an excuse to curb dissenting voices.
In its annual report published earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the Turkish government for using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to deepen its autocratic rule by banning demonstrations by opposition parties and government critics.
Several Turkish unions said in a joint meeting yesterday they would take part in May 1 demonstrations despite the bans.