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Istanbul under Security Lockdown on Tense May Day

1 May 2015 12:46


Turkish police on Friday put Istanbul under a security lockdown to thwart unauthorized demonstrations on a tense May Day, with roads to the center shut and public transport severely restricted.

Istanbul under Security Lockdown on Tense May Day

The usually traffic-clogged streets in the city center were eerily quiet as police blocked all vehicle access to Taksim Square, the traditional focus for protests in the city.

Several hundred people turned out for an initial protest under heavy police surveillance in the Besiktas district on the Bosphorus, shouting “Long Live May 1!” and “shoulder to shoulder against Fascism!”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration — shaken by weeks of deadly anti-government protests in May-June 2013 centered on Taksim Square — is hugely nervous about public demonstrations ahead of June 7 legislative elections.

In an apparent bid to discourage protests, the city’s main metro line has been halted well before Taksim and services on the city tram service are stopping halfway.

The local authorities have erected iron barriers on Taksim Square to make even pedestrian access impossible.
Several ferry services from the Asian side of the Bosphorus have been suspended to prevent people from crossing to join protests on the European side.

Private helicopters were also banned from taking to the skies to give the airspace to police choppers.
The blocking of traffic left some locals with long walks to carry out their business while travelers carrying heavy luggage were stranded as they sought a ride to the airport.

Turkish media said 20,000 police had been deployed in Istanbul backed up by 62 water cannon trucks that the police are happy to use in case of clashes.
This is the first May Day in Turkey, a national holiday in the country, to be marked after parliament passed a controversial security bill this year giving the police greater powers to crack down on protests.

Taksim Square has been a flashpoint for clashes on Labor Day since dozens of people were killed there on May 1, 1977 when modern Turkey was going through one of its most turbulent periods.
“In 1977 there was a massacre. We simply want to the there [on Taksim] to commemorate that date. We cannot do it any other way, it is too symbolic for us,” Umar Karatepe, a leader of the DISK labor confederation, said.

A heavy police deployment has also been put in place in the capital Ankara, with restrictions on public access to the city center.

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