ISTANBUL, (Reuters) – Turkish riot police fired water cannon and tear gas in clashes with May Day demonstrators in Istanbul on Friday.
Young men threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the police and smashed windows in banks and supermarkets. The police fired warning shots near the city’s main Taksim square.
Riot police dispersed the protesters, chasing them down side streets, and several were detained. Leftists and Kurdish separatists frequently clash with the police at protests.
Public offices and financial markets are closed on Friday for May Day after Turkey declared it a holiday this year.
Turkey’s economy slowed sharply this year and unemployment has risen to a record 15.5 percent. Almost one in three young people is without a job and the government fears social unrest and increased ethnic tensions because of the economic downturn. “These are not workers and they have nothing to do with workers. These are radical groups and separatists provoking the police,” Istanbul governor Muammer Guler said.
Thousands of police were stationed in the centre of Turkey’s largest city to block access to Taksim, which has been closed to workers’ demonstrations since 37 people died in a shooting by an unknown gunman or were trampled to death on May Day in 1977.
TV showed thousands of labour union members entering Taksim Square, chanting slogans and waving red flags in defiance of a ban by the police.
“We have come here today because there is a score that needs to be settled from 1977,” said Adem Anli, a 25-year-old municipal worker.