Metrobus service partially resumed despite high security clampdown in Istanbul for May Day

Metrobus service partially resumed despite high security clampdown in Istanbul for May Day

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Metrobus service partially resumed despite high security clampdown in Istanbul for May Day

AA Photo

Public transport in Istanbul is severely restricted May 1 as local authorities take precautions to prevent any illegal gathering in Taksim Square for May Day, after the authorities denied union requests to mark the holiday at the iconic square.

The metrobus line, which was suspended as of 5 a.m. this morning, began operating a limited service around 12.30 p.m.

However, the metrobus is only serving a relatively restricted line between non-central districts of Istanbul for now, Beylikdüzü and Topkapı.

Istanbul’s metro stopped working between the Şişhane and Taksim stations, as well as between the Taksim and Levent stations, as of 6 a.m. The Taksim-Kabataş funicular stopped operating at 6 a.m.

All ferry and boat services from the Anatolian side of the city to the European side were also suspended from 6 a.m., according to the Governor's office

The prime minister and Istanbul’s governor have both reiterated that no celebrations of May Day in Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square will be permitted today, despite major unions’ call for workers to congregate in the square. 

“Some unions are doing their best to turn May Day into a day of tension and clashes,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday in an address to his party members in Parliament.

He said the current move to pedestrianize the square meant that the safety of any crowds could not be guaranteed.

“In the event of a possible provocative action … during the rally, could you stand even one person’s death there?” Erdoğan said.

Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu also held a press meeting in Taksim earlier in the day, saying security forces would prevent groups from marching to the square.

“We are saying our last word here; a rally here tomorrow will definitely not be allowed,” Mutlu said.

He did say, however, that a short, wreath-laying ceremony would be permitted in Taksim Square, as would a commemoration ceremony at Kazancı Slope to honor the dozens of people killed by suspected right-wing extremists on May 1, 1977.

Main opposition slams transport restrictions

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) slammed the public transport measures adopted by the Istanbul Governor. 

"After May Day, we will file a complaint to the necessary institutions on the basis that freedom of movement has been hampered," the CHP's Istanbul head Oğuz Kaan said.

Kaan added that the party's members would participate massively at the May Day celebrations. "We are calling on them not to make us confront the police. As thousands of CHP members, will walk from Beşiktaş to Taksim. We have taken our precautions. We will carry lemons so that if police use tear gas we will be able to help people. We hope this won't be necessary," he said.

Roads leding to Taksim out of service

A number of unions again announced April 29 that they were planning to gather in Taksim to mark International Workers’ Day, dismissing the intransigence of the government and the governor. 

Mutlu had said roads leading to Taksim would be out of service on May Day and that some 3,000 police would be brought in to provide security.

The Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) and the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK) have announced that they will hit the streets to reach Taksim.

DİSK head Kani Beko said the Istanbul Governor had simply made excuses, as the area under construction is only a small part of the square and their demand was to use 30,000 square meters of the area. 

President of the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen Association (TÜSİAD) Muharrem Yılmaz also issued a written statement saying that May Day in Turkey had a special place in social dialogue and democratic culture, calling for an improvement of labor rights in Turkey.

Yılmaz also stated that the murders of May 1, 1977 should be brought to the light.

In 2010, the government allowed the square to be opened for May Day rallies for the first time since the 1977 massacre.

The square, however, is currently undergoing a massive and controversial renewal project that could create safety dangers for any crowds congregating there, the government has said.