GeriGündem 2009 becomes historic year for Turkey's troubled May Day past
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2009 becomes historic year for Turkey's troubled May Day past

ISTANBUL – The year 2009 is set to become a very important turning point in the history of Turkey's May Day celebrations that have traditionally been dominated by violence with the government's declaration of May 1 as an official holiday and the limited opening of a symbolic square for celebrations. (UPDATED)

Video: Workers disperse after historic peaceful celebrations

Video: Demonstrators hurl Molotov cocktails at police

Video: Turkish workers enter Taksim after 31 years

Video: Police intervene in May Day marches in Istanbul

Photo: Turkish workers return to Taksim after 31 years

Photo: Turkey's troubled history with May Day

Photo: Police intervene in May Day demonstrations

 

Photo: Workers celebrate May Day globally

 

 

Around 5,000 people participated in peaceful May Day celebrations in Istanbul's controversial Taksim Square on Friday for the first time in 31 years, marking a historic day in Turkey.

 

After an hours long debate, authorities agreed to allow thousands of workers to enter Taksim Square, where those gathered waved flags, chanted slogans and danced. The workers also held a minute of silence for those killed in May Day celebrations in Turkey.

 

The crowd chanted "Here is May 1, Here is Taksim" and "We are at May Day Square on May Day," referring to the symbolic importance of Taksim for leftist movements in Turkey.

 

Suleyman Celebi, the chairman of the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions, or DISK, leading organization of the celebrations, said everybody who came to Taksim Square should be proud of themselves.

 

The demonstrators later dispersed without incident after holding historic celebrations which lasted for almost one-and-half hours.

 

Turkey banned May Day celebrations in Taksim Square in 1978 after workers were allowed in to commemorate the painful incidents of the year before.

 

The main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, several other small leftist parties, unions and non-governmental organizations attend the DISK-led celebrations. Several foreign unions also extend their support. 

 

Around 2,000 thousand members of the DISK, the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions, or KESK, and other organizations began their march to Taksim Square from Pangalti, a few kilometers away, where DISK's headquarters are located early in Friday morning.

 

But the number almost doubled after smaller groups joined them as they converged on Taksim from the north, news agencies and TV channels reported. The march eventually ended in Taksim after hours-long discussions with the authorities.

 

The organization in Kadikoy Square, where the authorities granted permission, was overshadowed by the Taksim celebrations. Around 5,000 people attended the Kadikoy celebrations, organized by Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions, or Turk-Is, a Daily News reporter at the scene said.

 

Workers protested the chairman of Turk-Is, Mustafa Kumlu, while he was giving a speech in Kadikoy. The organization began early in the morning and began to wind down by midday.


CLASHES OCCUR
Police clashed with smaller groups in side streets in the area between Pangalti and Sisli as the security forces prevented demonstrators to be added in the larger group.

 

Police drove the crowd back using water and pepper gas, in an incident reminiscent of similar confrontations that occurred in 2007 and 2008. During the clashes the windows of a number of shop fronts were smashed.

 

Security forces also intervened to prevent demonstrators from entering the square from the west and south of the square.

 

A small fire was started by a Molotov cocktail hurled by a protestor onto the first floor of a building near the main square. Fire crews quickly extinguished the blaze, NTV reported.

 

Twenty-one police officers were injured and nearly 20 other people sought help at hospitals, although none were in serious condition, Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler was quoted by Anatolian Agency as saying. Police detained 108 people, he added.

 

BANNER PROTEST IN TAKSIM

As the DISK group waited to converge on Taksim Square, a number of protesters unfurled a banner from the Marmara Hotel in the square that read, “Find the gunmen who fired from here on May 1, 1977."

 

In 1977, May Day celebrations, the largest so far, began peacefully but turned into a catastrophe when unidentified gunmen opened fire on the crowd, leaving 36 people dead and 200 injured. Turkey banned May Day celebrations in Taksim Square in 1978 when workers were allowed to commemorate the painful incidents of the year before.

 

Earlier on Friday the Confederation of Turkish Real Trade Unions, or Hak-Is, entered the square from the southern side with around 1,000 people and around 600 members of the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions, or Turk-Is, laid a wreath to commemorate the deaths of 1977.  

 

 

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