Police prevent union members gathering for May 1 announcement at Taksim

Police prevent union members gathering for May 1 announcement at Taksim

Police prevent union members gathering for May 1 announcement at Taksim

Police use violence once more to attack a gathering in Taksim Square. AA Photo

Security forces again resorted to tear gas to prevent union members from issuing a press statement at Taksim’s Gezi Park on April 21.

The May 1 Committee, which is composed of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) and the Chamber of Architects and Engineers’ (TMMOB), gathered at Gezi Park, but were driven by police from the park toward Taksim Square.

The group insisted on exercising its constitutional right to protest and read a press release, but the police attacked the demonstrators with tear gas to disperse them. The police warned the “crowd to leave the area” and said that if they did not, they would intervene.

After the group refused to leave the area, the security forces started their attack, in which at least one DİSK member was injured and nine people were detained.

Doğan News Agency footage showed a policeman addressing the crowd before the police attack:

Interior Minister Efkan Ala recently gave a clear statement that the government was unwilling to permit the use of Taksim Square for this year’s May Day demonstrations.

Kani Beko, Chairman of DİSK, urged the release of those detained in yesterday’s clashes and reiterated his members’ will to celebrate May Day in Taksim Square.   

“The May Day rally’s address is Taksim,” Beko said at a regional meeting of the union.

He stressed that the rally was held peacefully in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and recalled that the government last year disallowed access to Taksim due to extensive construction work at the site.

“But when we inspected the site, we found that there were no problems [that would interfere] with the May Day rally,” Beko said.    

He added that his union was not against using other squares for gatherings, but noted that Taksim Square was particularly significant for Labor Day.

“We have to hold the May 1 rally at Taksim to commemorate the 1977 incidents,” Beko said. On May 1, 1977, also known as the “Labor Day Massacre,” 34 people were killed in clashes.

The DİSK chairman also emphasized that the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) ruling and the Turkish Constitution recognized the right to assembly. “If the authorities will not let us, then that is a violation of the Constitution and the court’s rulings,” he said.

DİSK and KESK both claim to have the backing of a November 2012 decision from the ECHR that ruled there had been a violation of Article 11 on freedom of assembly by the Turkish government regarding freedom of assembly.

Speaking at Taksim, Gürsel Tekin, vice-chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP),said he was in the square for moral support and said the CHP would be in Taksim on May Day.

Taksim Square has a symbolic meaning for Turkey’s labor movement, but was not allowed to be used for Labor Day demonstrations by the authorities after 1977.

However, the government declared May 1 an official holiday in 2009, and in 2010, for the first time in 32 years, thousands of people marched to Taksim Square and demonstrated. No major incidents occurred during the demonstrations in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

But this was not the case in 2013, when access to Taksim Square was blocked by the authorities, citing ongoing construction at the site, which officials said might be dangerous for demonstrators.