Water cannon and rubber bullets used against demonstrators trying to reach Taksim square, centre of last year’s uprising
Reuters in Istanbul – theguardian.com, Thursday 1 May 2014 11.26 EDT
Turkish police have fired teargas, water cannon and rubber bullets to stop May Day protesters, some armed with firebombs, from defying the prime minister and reaching Istanbul’s central Taksim square.
Citing security fears, authorities shut parts of the city’s public transport system, erected steel barricades and deployed thousands of riot police to block access to Taksim, a traditional union rallying point and the focus of weeks of anti-government protests last summer.
The PM, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – who warned last week he would not let labour unions march on Taksim – says both last year’s street protests and a corruption scandal dogging his government since December are part of a plot to undermine him.
The Istanbul governor’s office said it had received advanced information that “illegal terror organisations and their extensions” would resort to violence to stoke unrest. But the security measures failed to deter thousands of people from trying to march, with pockets of protesters playing cat and mouse with police in teargas-shrouded side streets.
Demonstrators in surrounding neighbourhoods repeatedly tried to breach police lines blocking the way to Taksim, a normally teeming shopping and tourism district that lay virtually deserted and ringed by security checkpoints.
Some 40 people were hospitalised and around 160 detained, according to the Progressive Lawyers Association.
In the working class Okmeydani district, members of leftist groups threw firebombs and fireworks at security forces, who responded with rubber pellets. Similar clashes erupted in March at the funeral of teenager Berkin Elvan, who had lain in a coma after being wounded in last year’s unrest.
Elvan’s image was displayed on a giant poster on Thursday as some of the protesters chanted “Berkin’s murderer” at police. “This is a day of struggle. We’re not trying to reach Taksim to celebrate but to resist … We don’t want violence and whenever May Day was allowed in Taksim, it was peaceful,” said Caglar, 37, a teacher and leftist activist, clutching a scarf and a homemade antacid mixture to protect against the tear gas.
Police also used water cannon and gas to disperse more than a thousand demonstrators in the capital Ankara, where the centre of the city was on lockdown, with a heavy security presence and police helicopters buzzing overhead.
The authorities issued a similar ban last year, leading to thousands of anti-government protesters fighting with police as they tried to breach barricades around the huge square, which in previous years was a focal point for labour demonstrations.
That violence was followed by mass protests that spread across Turkey last May, in one of the biggest challenges to Erdoğan’s rule since his AK party came to power in 2002.
“Give up your hope of Taksim,” Erdoğan said at an AK party meeting in parliament last week.
The prime minister has in the past dismissed protesters as “riff-raff” and “terrorists” and pointed to his AK party’s strong showing in elections.
The AK party dominated the electoral map in municipal polls on 30 March, retaining control of both Istanbul and Ankara despite the corruption scandal and last summer’s unrest.
But Erdoğan has faced criticism from abroad, not least from the European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, over restrictions on freedom of speech including a two-week ban on Twitter and last summer’s police crackdown on demonstrations.
He’s certainly got the signs and symptoms of a mentally ill delusional psychotic which gets worse with time. Erogan’s not only dictating his will on the people of Turkey but spreading his paranoid dictatorship tendencies to the US via Hillary Clinton – [not difficult since she’s another lying, delusional, psychologically damaged, control freak] and UN Resolution 16/18 – written w/ input from the 57 states, the intent to tear up our rights, in this case freedom of speech thus leaving an opening to implement sharia law. These people are like drug junkies always looking for a way to control – it’s why these sicko’s never, ever, ever, ever, go away!