Turkish interior minister: ‘No pasarán’ to Taksim Square on May Day

Turkish interior minister: ‘No pasarán’ to Taksim Square on May Day

Turkish interior minister: ‘No pasarán’ to Taksim Square on May Day

Interior Minister Efkan Ala. AA photo

Interior Minister Efkan Ala has given a clear signal that the government is not responsive to demands to use Taksim Square for this year's May Day demonstrations.

“Let’s name it openly; there is no ban. After all, it [Taksim Square] is not a place for celebrations,” Ala told reporters on April 18.

Taksim displayed a chaotic picture on the same day last year, with riot police firing water cannons and tear gas to disperse tens of thousands of protesters as they tried to breach barricades to reach the city’s symbolic main square.

The labor unions and opposition parties that want to celebrate May Day can do this in a “chic” way at venues designated for such celebrations, Ala said, citing Yenikapı, Maltepe and Kadıköy as those places.

“Why not Yenikapı, isn’t Yenikapı central too?” Ala asked, avoiding giving a direct answer when asked why Taksim Square was not available for such gatherings as it had been years ago.

“Dozens of factors are taken into consideration when deciding on the venue of a meeting,” Ala said, listing evacuation plans in case of any negative development, not giving damage to other working people and shopkeepers and not blocking people’s transportation as some of those factors.

“In the end, it is a location,” Ala said. “Isn’t Kadıköy central? The old remained in the very old past. Taksim was maybe the center of Istanbul in the past. However, now, there are many centers and locations that are very available for this,” he added.

Taksim Square has a symbolic meaning for Turkey's labor movement. On May 1, 1977, also known as the “Labor Day Massacre,” 34 people were killed in clashes, after which the square was not allowed to be used as a place for Labor Day demonstrations.

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 construction ongoing at the site, which officials said might be dangerous for demonstrators.