After Labour Day was declared a public holiday in Turkey last year, this year saw the central Taksim Square in Istanbul reopened to the public on the day, after a ban since 1977.
Three processions towards the square
Starting at 10 am, trade unionists and workers converged on Taksim Square from three different locations.
At 11.40 am, presidents of the trade union confederations laid down carnations at a site near the square where workers had been shot dead on Labour Day in 1977. Mustafa Kumlu, president of the TÜRK-İŞ confederation, said, "We remember the friends we lost from the depths of our hearts. We rejoice in the fact that Taksim Square has been opened, and we thank our friends who struggled for this cause."
A minute of silence followed in front of the monument at Taksim Square.
Around 1,500 trade union officials are on duty today, and temporary toilets were installed. Plain-clothes police officers are on duty and the shops in the area are closed, but food kiosks are open.
The police has closed off the side streets leading to Taksim and only certain roads to Taksim are open.
Uras: "If only army and police had trade unions, too"
MP Ufuk Uras from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) was at the square, too. He told bianet, "I congratulate all workers on their day. As in all countries of the world, Labour Day needs to be celebrated in peace in Turkey, too. From now on, Turkey will become a more democratic and free country. I congratulate everyone who worked on making the celebration in Taksim possible."
He added, "We defend the right of all public workers, be they uniformed or not, to organise in unions and to have collective labour agreements. If only the police and the military also had trade unions and fought for their rights. We have taken a great step in getting over the 12 September [the military coup of 1980] in Turkey. This is our shared success."
Sami Evren of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Public Employees (KESK) said, "It is impossible not to get emotional. It is very important that Labour Day is being celebrated in Taksim Square again after so many years. We struggled for years to get this ban lifted. We expect around 100,000 people to converge on the square from the Şişli meeting point."
Akay and Tanbay: Ban was for nothing
bianet also spoke to film director Ezel Akay and dancer Zeynep Tanbay on the square.
Akay was taking part in his trade union SİNE-SEN's walk. He said, "Today an area ended and a new one has started. We will not have a revolution immediately, but for the whole of Turkey the opening of Taksim Square has symbolic meaning. Today is as important as the fall of the Berlin Wall. This is not the success of a political group or the government, but of the public. Everyone ridiculed the ban anyway.
Tanbay also referred to the ban on celebrations in previous years, saying, "This is 1 May and this is Taksim. We suffered for nothing for years. There was no need.
Demand for free education
Some highschool students joined the march to Taksim Square from Şişli. They told bianet about their demands and feelings.
Eylem Karaca said, "We are struggling for socialism. We do not see the student movement as separate. As a woman I believe that my liberation can only be achieved through the liberation of all women."
Other students demanded free and equal education, as well as democracy and peace. University students added a call for autonomous universities.
"A better world for our children"
Ayşen Aksakal came to the demonstration with her two 4-year-old children. She said, "We have come here with our children on purpose. We want to leave our children and all other children a free and equal world. (SP/BT/TK/AG)