Hundreds of thousands of people were on the roads in Istanbul and all over the country on 1 May to peacefully celebrate Labour Day. This year, also corteges of unions and non-governmental organizations marched to Taksim, a square in central Istanbul. The most stunning difference compared to previous years was the police remaining in the background on and around Taksim Square.
Police forces were deployed in the side streets only. Apart from a minor incidence of tension close to Taksim, no clashes were encountered. Taksim Square was only reopened for Labour Day last year after it had been closed to the 1 May demonstrators since the bloody clashes in 1977.
The mass gathering in Taksim was coloured up by dancing groups and brass bands. Supporters of the Fenerbahçe and the Galatasaray rival football teams walked side by side in cheerful sentiment. African immigrants performed a traditional Turkish folk dance together with the workers and students chanted inventive slogans. This year, not only Turkish songs but also songs in the Armenian and Kurdish languages were played.
The meeting was also attended by many high school students like members of the Revolutionary High School Students Group (Dev-Lis) and other student groups.
Members of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestites and Transsexual (LGBTT) groups joined the celebrations and contributed to the good mood with their music bands.
Journalists posted banners reading "Freedom for Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener", two journalists who were arrested and detained on 6 March.
The Kurdish march Herne pes ('forward') was performed by Grup Yorum ('Group Review').
Member of the Çarşı group were stopped by the police and were denied access to the Takism area. Upon the protest of the demonstrators, the police eventually opened a passage in the barricades and let the group pass. The Çarşı group drew attention to nuclear energy with their banners.
Pacifist Mehmet Ali Alabora read out a poem by deceased Turkish poet and novelist Nazım Hikmet.
The 1 May March was performed as well as various Turkish folk songs.
The Kardeş Türküler group played a song in Armenian to draw attention to the struggle for rights and to the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
In the speeches delivered to the public, the speakers voiced their protest against the arrests of elected mayors and MPs. They reiterated their demand to release all journalists in prison for their writings, quoting Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener as the currently most prominent examples. The crowd on Taksim Square supported this call and the criticism with applause.
Also people in Turkey's capital Ankara took the street on Labour Day. Besides, People in Izmir, Diyarbakır, Mardin, Şırnak, Elazığ, Adıyaman, Tunceli, Ganziantep, Adana and Mersin peacefully demonstrated for "Labour, Freedom and Peace". (ÇT/HK/EKN/VK)