Unions insist on Labor Day in Taksim, despite past violence

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 15.04.2016 20:39

Labor unions in Istanbul are intent on holding rallies in Taksim Square on May 1, called Labor Day or May Day in Turkey, to the chagrin of authorities concerned over possible riots. Unions were once again at odds with authorities, as they made an announcement pledging to be in city's busiest square on May 1.

Representatives of labor unions including the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK), the Confederation of the Public Workers' Union (KESK), the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) and the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) held a press conference on Friday concerning their plans for Labor Day.

Kani Beko, the chairman of DİSK, said they would be "at the squares" to voice their demands for the improvement of workers' conditions and raise their voice against the problems facing the Turkish labor force. "The history of Labor Day is marked with the fight of the working class for bread and freedom. For us, this history includes brothers we lost in Taksim in 1977," he said. On May 1, 1977, 34 people were killed when unknown gunmen opened fire on a crowd of union members in Taksim. The massacre is regarded as a culmination of political upheaval marked by conflict between the left-wing and right-wing movements at the time. Since then, left-wing unions have sought to mark the day in Taksim, to commemorate the victims. Authorities are reluctant to allow a large-scale event at the square amidst security concerns, as violent riots at the square and nearby districts during past events justify the ban.

Last year, members of labor unions and several radical groups clashed with police in scuffles across Istanbul and dozens of people were detained as they resisted the forced dispersal of rallies, while some hurled stones and molotov cocktails at riot police.

The rally is unlikely to receive authorization, as Istanbul has already on alert in the wake of the terror attacks of the past months. Istanbul's governorate banned a planned rally by an opposition party in the district of Bakırköy last month, citing security concerns.

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