May Day observed from Turkey to Taiwan

Trade unions and other groups are staging rallies around the world to mark International Workers Day. A look at some May Day events:


Turkish police on Sunday used tear gas and water cannon to disperse dozens of May Day demonstrators in Istanbul.

Security forces arrested several people to prevent them from gathering in Istanbul’s Taksim Square which has symbolic meaning as the centre of protests in which 34 people were killed in 1977.

A police vehicle ran over and killed one protester who was trying to reach the public square, named by local media as 57-year-old Nail Mavus, in Tarlabasi district of Istanbul.

In the nearby district of Sisli, police fired tear gas and water cannon to scatter other protesters.

Up to 15,000 police and 120 water cannons were deployed across Istanbul, according to Anadolu Agency.

According to Birgun newspaper, 52 people were arrested as they tried to reach Taksim Square.

«The police are routinely heavy-handed in such demonstrations, not only on May Day. The scuffles occurred after police did not let people enter Taksim Square,» Yavuz Baydar, a Turkish columnist and analyst, told Al Jazeera.

Authorities had previously agreed with some unions to mark the day in a designated area in Istanbul’s Bakirkoy district near the airport.

Elsewhere in Turkey, May Day marches were held without incident but were cancelled in the southern city of Gaziantep after of a car-bomb attack on a police station.

A May 1 rally in the city of Adana was also cancelled earlier on Sunday as a result of a suicide-bombing threat.

Turkish police detained four suspected Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) members who were allegedly planning an attack on May Day celebrations in the capital Ankara, the state-run Anadolu Agency said.

Initial investigations showed that the four were Syrian citizens who had been in Ankara for some time, Anadolu said, without giving details on the nature of the attack.

«It is a tense Turkey nowadays. A low-intensity civil war is going on in the mainly Kurdish southeastern provinces of the country,» Baydar, the Turkish columnist, said.

«As for the oppositional liberal parts of society in the urban areas, they believe their demands are not being met, and not even being listened to, by the government. This tension has been spreading across the country.»


Tens of thousands of people marched across Moscow’s Red Square on Sunday morning in a pro-Kremlin workers’ rally. The protesters were carrying the Russian tricolour and balloons.

As is typical for rallies organised by the ruling United Russia party, the May Day rally steered clear of criticising President Vladimir Putin or his government for falling living standards.

The slogans focused on wages and jobs for young professionals.

Left-wing Russian groups held their own rallies.

This year the May Day coincided with the Orthodox Easter in Russia.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov told Russian news agencies before the rally that he celebrates Easter despite the Communist Party’s history of oppressing the Russian Church.

When a supporter greeted him with «Christ has risen!», Zyuganov echoed «He is risen indeed!» in a traditional Orthodox greeting.


In Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, labour unions took to the streets with a march to call on the government to reduce working hours and increase wages.

Many among the Taiwanese public have been concerned that outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou’s push for closer economic ties with China has benefited just a few.

Young Taiwanese have seen wages stagnate and good full-time jobs harder to find as the export-led economy has slowed.

Chen Li-jen, a protester with the Taiwan Petroleum Workers Union, said that while companies were seeing their earnings per share grow every year, workers’ salaries were not rising in tandem.

«Hardworking labourers are being exploited by consortiums,» Chen said.

«For the past decade, our basic salary has not made any progress.

«Labourers’ rights have always been neglected. This is why I hope to take advantage of the May 1 Labour Day protest and tell the government that we are determined to fight for our rights.»


Thousands of people in the German cities of Berlin and Hamburg are participating in demonstrations marking the Labour Day, according to the DW news agency.

The protests have been peaceful, with police only reporting some minor incidents of violence.

Protests against the far-right Alternative for Germany Party are expected to take place in several German cities, including Stuttgart, where the party is holding a congress.

Leftwing protests were held against the demonstration of right-wing, anti-immigration activists in the town of Plauen.


Tens of thousands of South Koreans took part in Sunday’s May Day protests to criticise labour reforms pushed by the government and to call for a higher minimum wage.

Labour activists say the labour reform bill, pushed by President Park Geun-Hye and her conservative Saenuri Party, will make it easier for companies to lay off workers.

«Let’s fight together against the evil bill!» labour activists and unionised workers chanted in unison during a protest held in Seoul Plaza in front of the city hall.

About 30,000 unionised workers at local companies took part, according to the Federation of Korean Trade Unions.


Sunday’s May Day rallies pulled together all the different French trade unions and groups opposed to the proposed reform of the Labour laws.

The traditional marches, which will continue throughout the day, are likely to be tense affairs after violence marred demonstrations earlier this month.

Police are expected to be out in force following protests on April 28 during which dozens of police officers were wounded and 214 arrest were made.

Bernard Cazeneuve, interior minister, in a telegram to senior police officers on Saturday, outlined a number of measures to be taken to avoid a repeat of the violence at previous demonstrations.

William Martinet, president of the UNEF students union, accepted that more needed to be done to protect and police the marches.

The CGT and the Force Ouvriere trade unions will lead the main May Day march in Paris, which will leave Place de la Bastille and head for Nation in the southeast of the city.

There will be representations from all the major student unions.

There will also be marches in other major towns and cities all over France.

However, neither the CFDT nor the CFTC unions, both of whom support the proposed Labour reform, will be marching today.

For its part, France’s far-right National Front party moved its annual May 1 gathering from its traditional location near the famous Louvre, to another location at Saint Augustin, a church in north central Paris.

The National Front said it had made the decision after ISIL announced earlier this year that the group was on the list of targets.

However, the founder Jean-Marie Le Pen still held a rally at the traditional location, in defiance of current party leader Marine Le Pen, his daughter.

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