Police to pull out all stops to prevent Taksim May Day celebrations
Çetin Aydın – ISTANBUL
DHA PhotoWorkers’ unions have continued their calls to meet in Istanbul’s Taksim Square for May Day celebrations, but the Istanbul Police Department has begun taking excessive security measures to prevent unions from gathering at the square after the governor’s office prohibited rallies in the square.
The May Day Organizing Committee, consisting of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) and the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), have called union members and members of the public to meet in Istanbul’s city center but in a different way this year.
They have not specified a meeting point, like they did in previous years, in order to prevent police from taking precautions to bar them from reaching the square.
Istanbul police, however, have made plans to bar groups entering Taksim on May 1, by taking into consideration meeting points and routes that were used in previous years.
After a series of meetings, Istanbul police have decided to station around 10,000 police officers on and around Taksim square on this year’s May Day, while the number may be changed according to the needs and situation. Policemen from outside of Istanbul will be brought to the city for the day, while leaves, as of April 29, have been canceled.
The police’s security measures will be implemented gradually, starting at the square, which will be cordoned off with iron barricades and police standing guard around the barricades and inside the square itself.
Anti-riot vehicles (TOMA) with water dispersers and police officers will be waiting on the touristic İstiklal Avenue and other crowded streets leading to Taksim such as Tarlabaşı, Gümüşsuyu and Sıraselviler streets. TOMAs will also be stationed before DİSK’s building in Istanbul’s Şişli district, Beşiktaş square and Dolmabahçe, where the prime minister’s working office is located.
The metro running between Yenikapı and Hacıosman will be cut off at the Osmanbey and Şişhane stops, which are the two stops before and after the Taksim stop. The Kabataş-Taksim funicular line will also not function on May 1, as part of the precautions taken to prevent workers from reaching the square.
A police chopper will patrol the area from above and record live around the square.
Istanbul Gov. Vasip Şahin announced, after a meeting with representatives of the May Day Organizing Committee earlier in April, that, while the representatives had demanded the opening of the Taksim Square for protests during May Day celebrations, they would not allow this, as the square was closed to any kind of protests, and thus also the May 1 marches.
Taksim Square has symbolic meaning for the Turkish left, as over 30 people were killed in 1977 when suspected nationalists opened fire on May Day participants from what is now the Marmara Hotel.
Şahin has also said they have added six other venues to the two venues from the previous year as places in which to stage a demonstration.
Protests in Konya
Meanwhile, the Confederation of Righteous Trade Unions (Hak-İş) and Memur-Sen, a civil servant union, both known to be close to the government, stated that they would be celebrating May Day in the Central Anatolian province of Konya. “As Hak-İş and Memur-Sen, we would like to organize a May Day organization that is close to its home in Konya, in the heart of Rumi, the city of tolerance and civilization,” Hak-İş Head Mahmut Arslan said April 28.
The five managers of DİSK, KESK, TMMOB and TTB were acquitted March 24 on charges of “inciting the public to take part in illegal meetings and marches” for the occasion of International Workers’ Day in 2014, on grounds that elements of the alleged crime were not apparent.