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Turkish police clash with protesters in May Day disturbances, detain hundreds

Turkish police clash with protesters in May Day disturbances, detain hundreds

Riot police charged into crowds of leftist protesters marking the 30th anniversary of a deadly May Day rally Tuesday, spraying tear gas and kicking and clubbing fleeing demonstrators. Hundreds were arrested.
Police, armed with truncheons, also used a water cannon to clear crowds heading toward Taksim Square. At least one officer was seen firing his pistol at demonstrators resisting police in a back street.
Some 580 demonstrators _ some carrying pistols, firebombs and knives _ were detained, Gov. Muammer Guler said.
The May Day clashes occurred amid rising political tensions in Turkey, where the secular opposition is pressuring the Islamic-rooted government to declare early general elections. Two days earlier, hundreds of thousands of pro-secular protesters demonstrated against a government they said was veering toward Islamic rule.
Not far from a five-star hotel popular among tourists, police surrounded several hundred protesters who raised their fists and denounced Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, chanting: "Resign!"
It was the first time the government had allowed May Day protesters onto Taksim Square since a 1980 military coup _ a move of significant symbolic importance for the country's leftist movement. Most of Turkey's leftists are secular but do not necessarily back the military, which staged three coups since 1960.
Authorities had declared the area around Taksim Square off limits to protesters but allowed a few hundred to lay red carnations at the square, where unidentified gunmen opened fire on tens of thousands of demonstrators during the May Day gathering in 1977. The incident left 34 people dead, most killed in a stampede.
Suleyman Celebi, chairman of the leftist Confederation of Revolutionary Workers' Union, said the leftists achieved their goal of holding a memorial service in the square for the first time.
Anticipating clashes, officials had shut down 41 schools for the day and briefly barred live broadcasts from the square. Several Police main roads were blocked as part of security measures, causing a traffic jam that forced the Istanbul stock market to start trading later than usual.
Around 3,000 riot police were deployed, and snipers took up position on rooftops. A police helicopter circled overhead, and police deployed several armored vehicles in the square.
As the crowds swelled, riot police chased small pockets of protesters out of the square, detaining some. One group of several dozen marched in a cluster toward the square, but quickly turned back, gasping from the tear gas. A few held aloft black anarchist flags.
A firebomb hit an armored police vehicle, which crashed into a jeep and flung the passenger onto the street.
Protesters left the square. But police chasing a group on affluent Istiklal Street, which is lined with bars, cafes and shops, fired tear gas and water canons to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing protesters.
All shops were closed. Pedestrians ducked and tried to cover their faces with their hands as throngs of riot police firing tear gas ran after protesters.
Along one narrow street, protesters _ their faces covered with red scarves _ were setting up barricades with armchairs they had taken from a store and throwing roof tiles at officers.
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Associated Press Writer Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-05-16 22:23 GMT+08:00