Turkey clashes mar global May Day holiday

Turkey clashes mar global May Day holiday

Turkish protests were pinned to the ground and dragged away from the rally in Istanbul.
Turkish protests were pinned to the ground and dragged away from the rally in Istanbul.

ISTANBUL: Turkish riot police clashed on Sunday with protesters and detained scores during a May Day rally, as tens of thousands marched across Europe in support of workers' rights.

AFP images showed protesters being pinned to the ground and dragged away from the rally in Istanbul, which the governor's office said was unauthorised.

May 1 is a public holiday in many countries across the world and Sunday saw rallies from Athens to Colombo.

Latin America was bracing for large crowds too, the region's biggest cities traditionally hosting many thousands on Labour Day.

The event is massive in France, and cities across the country were filled.

Paris rallies quickly turned violent with youths breaking from the main march and clashing with police, who charged en masse to disperse the troublemakers.

Windows of shops and offices were smashed in Paris and in the western city of Nantes.

Protesters told AFP they wanted to send a message to Emmanuel Macron, recently re-elected for a second five-year term as president after seeing off the challenge of far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

Martine Haccoun, a 65-year-old retired doctor, said she came to protest in the southern city of Marseille "to show Macron that we didn't give him a blank cheque for five years".

She said many voted for Macron simply to stop Le Pen.

French unions joined together to appeal for better pay and social protections, common calling cards for protesters around Europe.

- 'Not slogans' -

While scuffles were reported in Italian cities including Turin, crowds of thousands gathered in London and cities across Germany with no sign of trouble.

In Spain, some 10,000 joined a demonstration in Madrid and unions called for protests in dozens of other cities, some of them attracting thousands.

Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz of the communist party said defending workers' rights made democracies stronger, adding that she wanted to show solidarity "with the workers of Ukraine, who today aren't able to protest".

In the Greek capital Athens, more than 10,000 joined rallies against a background of spiralling inflation.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis promised on Sunday to raise the minimum wage by 50 euros a month.

"We honour the working people not with slogans, but with acts," he wrote on Twitter.

Kenyan Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta similarly used his May Day speech to promise a 12 percent hike in the minimum wage, though activists said it was not enough to keep pace with inflation.

- 'Pull him by his ear' -

The mood was uglier in Sri Lanka, where the opposition showed rare unity of purpose to come out and call for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign over the country's worst-ever economic crisis.

"For over a month, the president has been barricaded in his official residence," former legislator Hirunika Premachandra said at a rally in Colombo.

"It is time for us to pull him by his ear and kick him out."

Turkish police regarded the attempt to hold a rally as enough of a reason to detain more than 160 people in central Istanbul.

The authorities said the protesters had refused to disperse despite police warnings.

Elsewhere in Turkey, crowds flocked to government-approved rallies, which passed off peacefully.

In China, May Day is one of the year's busiest holidays with millions travelling across the country and tourist sites enjoying one of their most hectic times of the year.

But the country is in the grip of a series of lockdowns sparked by rising Covid cases.

"Obviously it's bad in terms of our own self-interest, but it's necessary overall for the good of the country," said a young waiter at a deserted restaurant near the Forbidden City in Beijing.

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