ISTANBUL, Turkey - Workers’ unions have continued their calls to meet in Istanbul’s Taksim Square for May Day celebrations, but the Istanbul Police Department has begun taking excessive security measures to prevent unions from gathering at the square after the governor’s office prohibited rallies in the square.
The May Day Organizing Committee, consisting of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DISK), the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) and the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), have called union members and members of the public to meet in Istanbul’s city center but in a different way this year.
They have not specified a meeting point, like they did in previous years, in order to prevent police from taking precautions to bar them from reaching the Square.
Istanbul police, however, have made plans to bar groups entering Taksim on May 1, by taking into consideration meeting points and routes that were used in previous years.
After a series of meetings, Istanbul police have decided to station around 10,000 police officers on and around Taksim Square on this year’s May Day, while the number may be changed according to the needs and situation. Policemen from outside of Istanbul will be brought to the city for the day, while leaves have been canceled.
The police’s security measures will be implemented gradually, starting at the Square, which will be cordoned off with iron barricades and police standing guard around the barricades and inside the square itself.
Anti-riot vehicles (TOMA) with water dispersers and police officers will be waiting on the touristic Istiklal Avenue and other crowded streets leading to Taksim such as Tarlabasi, Gumussuyu and Siraselviler streets. TOMAs will also be stationed before DISK’s building in Istanbul’s Sisli district, Besiktas square and Dolmabahce, where the prime minister’s working office is located.
The metro running between Yenikapi and Haciosman will be cut off at the Osmanbey and Sishane stops, which are the two stops before and after the Taksim stop. The Kabatas-Taksim funicular line will also not function on May 1, as part of the precautions taken to prevent workers from reaching the square. A police chopper will patrol the area from above and record live around the Square.
Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin announced, after a meeting with representatives of the May Day Organizing Committee earlier in April, that, while the representatives had demanded the opening of the Taksim Square for protests during May Day celebrations, they would not allow this, as the Square was closed to any kind of protests, and thus also the May 1 marches.
Taksim Square has symbolic meaning for the Turkish left, as over 30 people were killed in 1977 when suspected nationalists opened fire on May Day participants from what is now the Marmara Hotel.
Sahin has also said they have added six other venues to the two venues from the previous year as places in which to stage a demonstration.