Citing concerns over possible terrorist attacks and the risk to public safety, PM Erdoğan said May Day will not be marked in Taksim Square, suggesting Maltepe and Yenikapı as alternatives
ISTANBUL — Speaking at the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) group meeting yesterday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that rallies will not be allowed in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Labor Day, May 1. Reiterating the government's announcement that Labor Day was a public holiday, he told those who aim to hold a rally in Taksim, "Please, give up the hope of holding a rally in Taksim [Square]. Please do not cause tension with the state." There is also the fear that terrorist groups like PKK or the far-leftist DHKP-C, responsible for a series of explosions including the one that targeted the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, will exploit the occasion to stage attacks against innocent civilians. Erdoğan stated that the government would not put up with protestors damaging property under the guise of celebrating Labor Day. Calling on nongovernmental organizations, Erdoğan said rallies would be allowed only in designated areas.
He stated that some unions are "attempting to provoke violence" through protests.
He said that two squares (Yenikapı and Maltepe) were allocated as alternatives by the Istanbul governorate for Workers' Day rallies.
Erdoğan noted that certain actors are trying incite people to take to the streets as the months of May and June are getting closer. Noting that citizens do not want to see police and protestors clashing on streets anymore, Erdoğan accused certain groups of trying to influence politics via tension that they try to escalate. Several labor unions in Turkey made a joint declaration and announced their intention to observe International Labor Day on May 1 in Taksim Square, which has been a scene of violence and police intervention against unauthorized rallies in past years. On May 1, 1977, 34 people were killed when unknown gunmen opened fire on the crowd of union members observing the day in Taksim.
The massacre is regarded as the culmination of political upheaval marked by conflict between leftwing and rightwing movements. The culprits were never caught, raising suspicions that the massacre was masterminded by Turkey's so-called deep state. After the massacre, Taksim Square was off-limits to labor unions.
The coup regime that came to power in 1980 declared celebrations illegal. Crowds that gathered for events were smaller in the years that followed.
In 2007, on the 30th anniversary of the massacre, unions attempted to observe the event in the square with a large crowd, but the police dispersed the unauthorized rally. Later, celebrations were marked peacefully except for minor clashes. Last year, union members, accompanied by radical groups affiliated with terrorist organizations, attempted to organize celebrations in the square. They clashed with police who moved in to disperse them.