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Istanbul: May Day protesters clash with riot police

Clashes erupted in Istanbul today between May Day demonstrators and riot police as trade unionists defied a government ban on marches in Taksim Square.

Heavily armed and armoured security forces pushed back demonstrators with water cannon and tear gas.

Protesters retaliated by throwing objects and firing catapults at police.

Parts of the public transport system were closed down, roads were blocked and 30,000 police turned out to deny the workers entrance to the square.

Taksim is heavily symbolic for Turkey’s labour movement. In 1977 shots were fired into a May Day crowd from a nearby building, killing 34 people.

Demonstrators massed at spots throughout the city yesterday, as well as in other cities in Turkey, determined to mark International Workers’ Day.

Protesters built barricades on small streets leading into the square and used catapults to launch stones at the police, who responded with tear gas and water-cannon fire from armoured vehicles. 

Young men wearing gas masks and hard hats threw tear gas canisters back at the police lines and chanted “Resistance!”

By midmorning the protesters, especially the elderly, were struggling to cope with smoke and fumes billowing in the air. 

Some demonstrators used gas masks, surgical masks and construction goggles to protect themselves against the measures employed by the security forces.

“This is fascism. This is Erdogan’s obsession about power — nothing else,” said medical workers’ union rep Funda Keles as she treated protesters.

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