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May Day in İstanbul Taksim Square

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 DİSK, leading organization of the celebrations with KESK, 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. Several foreign UNIONs also extend their support.


Around 5,000 thousand members of the DISK and 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. The Kadikoy celebrations, organized by Turk-Is.


Police clashed with smaller groups in side streets in the area between Pangalti and Sisli as the 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.


Thirty-seven people, including nine police officers, were injured in clashes. Twenty-two people have so far been taken into custody. Security forces also intervened to prevent demonstrators from entering the square from the west and south of the square.


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 Hak-Is, entered the square from the southern side with around 1,000 people and around 600 members of the Turk-İş, laid a wreath to commemorate the deaths of 1977.