Shut-down Taksim at center of political row on May Day

Shut-down Taksim at center of political row on May Day

Shut-down Taksim at center of political row on May Day

DHA Photo

Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square is set to be on lockdown to prevent celebrations of May Day, but opposition parties and some unions have announced that they are determined to march to the square, as the prime minister underlined that only “symbolic” rallies would be allowed.

Authorities in Istanbul have tightened security ahead of the national holiday, with iron barricades already erected in the city center.

While taking pride in declaring May 1 as an official holiday in Turkey during the government’s rule, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu indicated that any attempt to stage mass celebrations in Taksim Square would be interpreted by the government as an attempt to create chaos.

“Tomorrow Taksim will be accessible to any of our citizens who want to come ‘symbolically.’ They should come and lay their carnations and show their respect. At the earliest opportunity, I will also go there and commemorate our citizens Inshallah [God willing] with carnations,” Davutoğlu said at a gathering with highway workers.

“En route to the elections on June 7, we should not allow those who want to create chaos in our country,” he said, adding that commemorations should not be conducted in “illegal” ways. “Inshallah, we will celebrate tomorrow as a holiday, as a fair and as a wedding. We will not let those who attempt to turn tomorrow’s festive environment into darkness, like they did on May 1, 1977.”

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.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are planning to march on Taksim Square, challenging the government’s plans to stop a massive rally in the area on that day.
CHP Istanbul Branch head Murat Karayalçın told the news website on April 30 that they would be marching to Taksim Square along with all district branch heads of the party. He also added that they would not clash with the police if they are banned from entering the streets. “We will then celebrate May 1 en route to Taksim,” he added. 

The HDP also released a call for the May 1 celebrations, saying they would hold rallies for democratic and economic rights as well as to protest the ban on Taksim Square.

“We will hold rallies to say ‘No’ to the ban on Taksim Square,” said the statement, while also calling on Davutoğlu to lift the ban on Taksim. 

Istanbul police have decided to station around 10,000 police officers on and around the square on May Day. Water cannon (TOMA) 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. 

The Istanbul Police Department said the following roads would be blocked to traffic as of 6 a.m. on May 1, saying many streets in the Taksim, Şişli, Mecidiyeköy, Beşiktaş and Okmeydanı areas would be blocked and that drivers would be directed to alternative routes. 

The metro running between Yenikapı and Hacıosman will be working between Hacıosman and Levent. 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.

The May Day Organizing Committee, consisting of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) and the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), has called union members and members of the public to meet in Taksim.

DİSK Secretary General Arzu Çerkezoğlu said on April 30 that there was no legal ground to block Taksim to May Day celebrations.

“May 1 is not an action day, it’s a celebration day. The government’s decision to block Taksim is unlawful. Our celebration area is Taksim Square and we are prepared to celebrate May Day in Taksim,” Çerkezoğlu, adding that they were going to continue the dialogue with the Istanbul Governor’s Office until the last minute to remove the block.

Other unions, on the other hand, will not hold rallies in Istanbul. The pro-government Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions (Türk-İş), which celebrated May Day in Kadıköy district of Istanbul last year, is planning to hold a rally in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak, while the right-wing Labor Confederation (Hak-İş) and the Confederation of Public Servants’ Trade Unions (Memur-Sen) will hold celebrations in the Central Anatolian province of Konya. The Turkish Public Workers’ Labor Union (Kamu-Sen) also announced that the focus of its celebrations would be in the southern province of Adana. 

The issue should be the problems of working conditions rather than the location of May 1 rallies, Türk-İş head Ergün Atalay told Anadolu Agency on April 30. 

Hak-İş head Mahmut Arslan also said it was wrong to identify May Day with Taksim Square.