Thousands mark International Workers’ Day in Turkey amidst heavy security

Thousands mark International Workers’ Day in Turkey amidst heavy security

Thousands mark International Workers’ Day in Turkey amidst heavy security

AA photo

Thousands of people gathered in the bazaar area in Istanbul’s Bakırköy district to mark International Workers’ Day on May 1. 

The celebrations started around 1 p.m. with the participation of political parties, unions and non-governmental organizations. 

The police conducted security checks in the entrance of the bazaar area, while the police helicopters patrolled the area. 

Tight security measures were taken at the metro and bus stations that are on the route to Bakırköy, in the gathering spots for participants and union members, on roads the groups will use to march to the meeting area and in the rally’s meeting spot.

The posters that the participants carried were also checked by police and ones deemed inappropriate weren’t allowed in the area. 

A mobile command and a crisis center were set in the Bakırköy courthouse, which is close to the bazaar area, by Istanbul police headquarters.

Water cannon vehicles (TOMA), police helicopters and trained dogs supported some 6,000 police officers, including bomb disposal specialists.

Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK) Chairman Kani Beko, Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) Head Lami Özgen and the board of directors head of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB), Mehmet Soğancı, were due to speak at the event.

“I hope that May Day will be celebrated with poems, songs and flowers in Bakırköy and in all areas across Turkey,” Beko told Anadolu Agency before the celebrations. 

Meanwhile, an argument erupted between the police and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) at a checkpoint while the latter was walking towards the bazaar area. 

The police dispersed HDP members using tear gas, while a former HDP lawmaker, Sebahat Tuncel was also hit by the gas. 

The one person that was injured was taken to the hospital and several people were detained. 

Tuncel then spoke to the police and the group was then allowed in the area. 

Politicians release May 1 messages

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a May 1 message, expressing his hopes that the occasion would “strengthen work, peace and unity,” while warning against “provocation.”    
“It is of outmost importance for the development of our democracy that our workers, who contribute significantly to the improvement and the enrichment of our country, to demonstrate a democratic and peaceful attitude while demanding justice,” he said, encouraging “mutual dialogue and reconciliation” between Turkey’s workers, unions, employers and civil society in attempts to resolve disagreements. 

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu hosted workers at a breakfast organized at the office of the prime minister at Çankaya Palace to mark early on May 1.

Davutoğlu stressed that there was serious intelligence about imminent attacks on May 1, but said that all necessary precautions were taken to prevent such incidents on a day when its “necessary to remember our [Turkey’s] unity.”

Main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also met with recycle workers on April 30 and called on them to “seek justice in squares.”

“May 1 is coming; go to the squares and ask for your rights. Use your freedom to demand justice fully,” he said.

Kılıçdaroğlu also posted a message on his official Twitter account, celebrating the work of all laborers. 

Enhanced security measures

Up to 15,000 policemen, three police helicopters and 120 water cannon vehicles (TOMA) were on duty across Istanbul, as part of security precautions that will consist of four levels, security sources told Anadolu Agency on April 28.

Meanwhile, Ankara police detained four suspected ISIL members for preparing to launch an attack during the May 1 International Workers’ Day demonstrations in the capital, Anadolu Agency has quoted security officials as saying. 

The Ankara anti-terror department detained the four suspects at midnight on April 30, the agency reported. 

The arrests followed technical and physical surveillance, and reports suggest the detainees are from Syria. 

Anti-terror operations will continue, say police.       
Meanwhile, the organization committee for the May 1 celebrations in the southern province of Adana decided to cancel the rally late on April 30 after local heads of the Eğitim-Sen education union said they received intelligence on an imminent suicide attack. 

The Adana police headquarters have warned police teams to be extra cautious about suspicious persons and vehicles throughout the day. 

The celebrations in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa have also been cancelled. 

Also on May 1, police used water cannons to disperse a group of around 40 protesters gathering for a May Day rally near Taksim Square – a symbolic yet contested venue that remains prohibited on International Workers’ Day.

The group of protesters, meeting near the Divan Hotel close to Taksim Square and carrying banners of “Halkevleri” (People’s Houses), were dispersed by police using water cannons.

A separate group from the People’s Liberation Party (HKP) was stopped by police on Barbaros Avenue in Beşiktaş ahead of a planned march to Taksim. 

The group of around 20 protesters was encircled by police, with the latter resorting to tear gas and detaining all members of the group. The group was taken to a nearby police station following body checks. 

Police also took strict security measures near the central Şişli Mosque and stopped all cars and buses deemed suspicious.

Three people inside a taxi, who protested against the search by chanting slogans, were detained.

The celebrations also took place across Turkey, including the capital Ankara, the Aegean province of İzmir and in the northwestern Sakarya province. 

Tight security measures were also taken in Ankara, where the participants went through seven security checks before entering the square where celebrations were held, reported Anadolu Agency.

The celebrations started by commemorating those killed in recent terror attacks and work accidents, while a number of people released black balloons to the sky in order to commemorate those lost. 

Confederation of Righteous Trade Unions (Hak-İş) marked May Day in Sakarya with the participation of some 15,000 people. 

The celebrations in İzmir started with the participation of workers’ unions and political parties, who carried banners and shouted slogans. 

The police conducted body searches on the group walking to İzmir’s Gündoğdu Square. The police helicopters and boats were on patrol throughout the gathering.

The security measurements came after a series of recent suicide attacks organized by both the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), a group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Two police officers were killed in a bomb attack on a police headquarters in the southeastern province of Gaziantep on the morning of May 1, while 18 policemen and four civilians were injured.

Two ISIL suicide bombers detonated themselves on Oct. 10, 2015, in front of Ankara’s main train station, where thousands of people had gathered for a peace rally a few weeks before a snap election on Nov. 1, 2015. The attack killed 101 protesters, making it the largest terrorist attack in Turkey’s history. ISIL also hit Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet Square on Jan. 12, as well as the city’s touristic İstiklal Avenue on March 19.

A female suicide bomber also detonated herself on April 27 near Ulu Cami, a mosque in the center of Bursa, killing herself and wounding 13 others.