Turkey police disperse, arrest May Day protesters in Istanbul

Turkey police disperse, arrest May Day protesters in Istanbul

2 min read
Turkish police have used tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse protesters seeking to defy a ban and march to Istanbul's Taksim square to celebrate May Day.
The May Day celebrations come after the 'Yes' camp won last month's referendum [Getty]

Turkish police on Monday used tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse protesters seeking to defy a ban and march to Istanbul's Taksim square to celebrate May Day.

Police tried to stop around 200 protesters in the Gayrettepe district on the European side of Istanbul who wanted to walk to the famous square in spite of the ban by city authorities.

The protesters – made up of left-wing groups – unfurled anti-government banners against the result of the April 16 referendum, which handed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expanded powers.

"Long Live May Day, No to the dictator!" the banners read.

Turkish authorities imposed a ban on any demonstration at Taksim square, with police sealing off the avenue with barricades and halting traffic.

At least 13 people who attempted to defy the ban on Taksim were detained, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Members of the group were wearing May Day T-shirts and chanting slogans: "No to Taksim ban."

In the secular Istanbul district of Besiktas, at least 60 protesters were detained, an AFP photographer reported.

Some 30,000 police were on duty in Istanbul alone, with the governor's office urging citizens not to heed calls for protests in non-official areas.

Police checked tourists and citizens passing through Taksim and all streets leading to the square were cordoned off with iron barricades.

Metro lines did not stop at Taksim square, which was a rallying ground for May Day celebrations until 1977, when at least 34 people were killed during demonstrations.

Authorities later opened up the square for celebrations but it was shut down again after it played host to anti-government protests in 2013 targeting Erdogan, then prime minister.

This year's May Day celebrations also come after the 'Yes' camp won last month's referendum with 51.41 percent of the vote against 48.59 percent for the 'No' camp.

The opposition has alleged major irregularities but its complaints were thrown out by the election commission and a top court.