Thousands mark May Day at iconic Istanbul square

Last Updated: Saturday, May 1, 2010 - 19:30

Istanbul: Tens of thousands of workers
filled a central square in Turkey`s biggest city Istanbul on Saturday for the first May Day celebrations at the site after
dozens were killed there 33 years ago.

Waving colourful flags, the crowds marched into Taksim
square, the hub of this sprawling city of more than 12
million, for the rally organized by six trade unions, as songs
celebrating the labour movement blared out from loudspeakers.

Police searched participants before letting them into
the square and a neighbouring park.

Officials were not immediately available to give an
attendance figure, but organisers said they expected up to
300,000 people for the rally supported by several political
parties and diverse non-governmental organisations.

Authorities have deployed more than 22,000 police
officers for the event, but they kept at a distance.

"Shoulder to shoulder against fascists," chanted the
crowd as several participants danced and clapped to music.

Taksim square had been declared off-limits since the
bloodshed during a May Day rally there in 1977 when gunmen,
believed to be far-right militants aided by members of the
intelligence services, fired on a peaceful crowd, triggering
mass panic. The attackers were never caught.

The deaths came at a time of severe political tensions
and street violence between leftist and rightist militants in
Turkey, which culminated in a military coup in 1980.

As today`s rally got underway, leaders of the six
trade unions organizing the event left red carnations at the
spot where the crowd was fired on, calling on authorities to
shed light on the killings.

"It is our duty to everyone in this struggle to ensure
that those behind the sad events of 1977 are caught and
brought to justice," Mustafa Kumlu, the head of Turkey`s
biggest trade union TURK-IS, said.


First Published: Saturday, May 1, 2010 - 19:30

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