İstanbul police ready for May 1 celebrations, governor says

May 1, declared an official holiday in 2009, was marked by mostly peaceful demonstrations last year in Taksim Square in İstanbul’s Beyoğlu district, attended by the country’s major labor unions and political parties. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

April 30, 2012, Monday/ 16:32:00

İstanbul Mayor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu has said about 14,000 police officers will be on duty in İstanbul to ensure security during May 1 Workers' Day celebrations on Tuesday.

Speaking to the press about the preventative measures taken in readiness for the May 1 celebrations after the inauguration of the “1st International Marmara and Black Sea Conference” on Monday, Mutlu said strong attendance is expected at the May 1, or May Day, celebrations that will mainly be held in Taksim Square in İstanbul's Beyoğlu district. “I wholeheartedly congratulate our workers on this special day. And I sincerely hope this day will be celebrated in such a way that workers' solidarity, problems and demands will be properly expressed,” the mayor said.

The heart of the May 1 celebrations have always taken place in İstanbul's busiest square, Taksim, which, until 2010, was off-limits to May 1 demonstrators following May Day 1977, also known as Bloody May Day, when 37 people were killed after unknown assailants opened fire on the crowd. Since then, May Day in Turkey has always been a source of tension.

However, the government decided to declare May Day an official holiday in 2009 and opened Taksim Square up for celebrations. About three decades after Bloody May Day, under tight security, Taksim Square became the venue of peaceful celebrations aside from a few minor incidents in 2010.

Expecting great attendance in the celebrations, Mutlu further said: “Groups representing unions, civil society organizations and workers' groups such as the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers' Unions (DİSK) and the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) will process through Taksim. The İstanbul Police Department has taken the necessary measures to ensure a peaceful demonstration that will cause no problems to either demonstrators or other people in the demonstration areas.”

Roughly 14,000 police officers will be on duty on Tuesday to ensure security during May 1 celebrations and some of them will be deployed from nearby cities, such as Sakarya, Kocaeli and Balıkesir.

Mutlu also said that he understands how hard workers' jobs are especially in summer time. “I had to earn my school fees by making bales of hay. I know what it is like to make bales of hay in the hot weather of July and August. Many do not know this, because they have not experienced such a thing. Therefore, I am an administrator who knows and values labor and who is sensitive when it comes to the issue of labor. I never do anything to hurt laborers. My father was a laborer; we all have laborers in our families. [When I criticize the May 1 demonstrators] I mean those few marginal people who aim to create chaos on that specific day,” Mutlu said.

To the question of whether the celebrations in Taksim Square would be banned again if provocation is seen on Tuesday, Mutlu said he cannot know for sure, but he hopes and wishes May 1 celebrations will always take place in Taksim Square.

Last year's May 1, also known as Labor Day, was marked with mostly peaceful demonstrations attended by the country's major labor unions and political parties. In an exciting development for the unions, a poster depicting a worker in shackles breaking free of his chains, which was last put up in Taksim in 1977, was hung again on the Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) building. Three small cranes were deployed to put up the poster, which measures 33 by 15 meters in size. Organizers said it took the makers of the poster 18 days to complete, and about 500 square-meters of cloth and 380 kilos of paint were used in its making.

Representatives of unions stood in front of the Taksim Republic Monument and laid a wreath of carnations that read 1 Mayıs (May 1) in white on a red background to commemorate the victims of the May 1, 1977 massacre in Taksim.

In 1977, unknown assailants opened fire on the crowd from the Marmara Hotel. Then a police armed personnel carrier pushed the crowed toward Kazancı Hill, at the beginning of İstiklal Street, which was blocked by a truck and many were crushed to death.

The perpetrators of the shooting from the hotel were never found and no effective investigation took place to find out why Kazancı Hill was blocked or why the personnel carrier directed people there, but Taksim Square was closed to May Day celebrations from then on. The event is considered the beginning of the period of turmoil and chaos that took Turkey to the 1980 military coup. The military coup government totally prohibited May Day celebrations.

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