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Turkey Celebrates (!) May Day Amid arrests, crackdowns

By Leyla Umar

Turkey’s workers take to streets on May Day despite enhanced security, state of emergency.

Denizens of anti-government protesters have been detained while trying to reach Istanbul’s central Taksim Square on May Day, which has been sealed off by police.

On Monday police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protestors, with the governor’s office in Istanbul reporting that 165 people had been detained throughout the city.

Roads leading to Taksim square were closed to traffic. Clashes occurred when protesters attempted to reach the square from other central areas such as Şişli, Talimhane, and Beşiktaş. According to reports from the governor’s office, the police confiscated Molotov cocktails, fireworks, and flamethrowers from the demonstrators.

Turkish police took enhanced security measures as Istanbul has witnessed two militant attacks since the beginning of the year, with 24,500 personnel deployed on the streets and hovering helicopters to monitor the streets per numbers from the governor’s office. The country has also been under a state of emergency since a failed putsch attempt in July 2016.

While the square was off limits, a select few from labor unions were allowed to visit the square’s monument. Taksim, however, holds sentimental meaning for many as 34 people were killed at a May Day celebration in 1977.

The government had designated spots in Istanbul away from the city center for celebrations to be held, such as Bakırköy, located 20 kilometers southwest of Taksim on the Marmara Sea. Despite security precautions, tensions still mounted when police arrested three people in Bakırköy’s square who were holding the Kurdistan flag, according to independent online paper T24.

Representatives from the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK), Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions (KESK), the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), and the Union of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) all congregated in Bakırköy.

Some demonstrators made use of the May Day events to air their grievances over questionable counting of ballots by the Supreme Electoral Council during the presidential referendum held mid-April. The results of the referendum – which gives President Erdoğan enhanced executive powers – remain contested.

Lami Özgen, president of KESK, spoke to workers gathered at the Bakırköy crowd by saying, “They proved that they have forgotten that we are half of the country. We say no to presidential decrees, no to the state of emergency. We also say no to arrests, to pressure, and to detainments. No to the removal of job security…We will continue to make our voices heard that as half the country, we do not accept the results of this referendum.”

Torture Claims:

Meanwhile daily Birgün, a leftist paper, reporter Erk Acarer tweeted saying that there are claims that some of detainees in Levent Police Station in Istanbul are being tortured and lawyers also cannot get any information about 5 people detained by police today:

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