May Day is an occasion during which working people throughout the world march in demonstrations that ordinarily entail nothing more than a peaceful stroll through the streets of a major city. But, May Day in Instanbul, turned into a something short of torture for demonstrators, tourists, expats, journalists and the average citizen because the Turkish government exerted its power against trade unions. As the day began, thousands of police were stationed on roads leading into Taksim Square where unions wanted to hold their rally, the square has symbolic value to those in the union movement. Observers noted the police outnumbered marchers and the scene at the square became surreal as marchers clashed with police and soon were assaulted by a barrage of gas which caused many to choke and gasp for breath.
A Finnish born doctor living in great Britain named Margarita, noted in most countries, May Day is a time for “holiday, big peaceful demonstrations. This is bloody annoying. I am terrified.” Soysal, a deputy with the CHP tried to stand up to police and urge, “Don’t do this, it is wrong. Police provoked the people here. May Day is celebrated all around the world as a day of celebrations, workers paid the price for this right. But the government does not want to hear the voice of the workers. The ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) does not want an organized opposition.”
During the day, police even sent tear gas into the Sisli Etfai hospital causing patients to flee in terror. The police claim they arrested about 500 demonstrators but union offiicals believe the total is closer to 900.
The real result of this massive use of police power for no purpose other than to demonstrate the power of government is the impact of the AKP’s actions on its proposed membership in the European Union. Few EU governments will tolerate such abuse of the rights of workers to demonstrate peacefully on an important holiday.