Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square and surrounding districts are on lockdown by more than 20 thousand police officers and iron crush barriers to prevent celebrations of May Day.
Authorities in Istanbul have tightened security ahead of the national holiday, with iron barricades erected in the city center.
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.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are planning to march on Taksim Square, challenging the government’s plans to stop a massive rally in the area on that day.
CHP Istanbul Branch head Murat Karayalçın told the Sendika.org news website on April 30 that they would be marching to Taksim Square along with all district branch heads of the party. He also added that they would not clash with the police if they are banned from entering the streets. “We will then celebrate May 1 en route to Taksim” he added.
The HDP also released a call for the May 1 celebrations, saying they would hold rallies for democratic and economic rights as well as to protest the ban on Taksim Square.
“We will hold rallies to say ‘No’ to the ban on Taksim Square,” said the statement, while also calling on Davutoğlu to lift the ban on Taksim.
Istanbul police have stationed around 21,000 police officers on and around the square on May Day. Water cannon (TOMA) and police officers are waiting on the touristic İstiklal Avenue and other crowded streets leading to Taksim such as Tarlabaşı, Gümüşsuyu and Sıraselviler streets. TOMAs are also stationed before DİSK’s building in Istanbul’s Şişli district, Beşiktaş square and Dolmabahçe.
The metro running between Yenikapı and Hacıosman is working between Hacıosman and Levent. The Kabataş-Taksim funicular line is not functioning, as part of the precautions taken to prevent workers from reaching the square.
The May Day Organizing Committee, consisting of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) and the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), has called union members and members of the public to meet in Taksim.
DİSK Secretary General Arzu Çerkezoğlu said on April 30 that there was no legal ground to block Taksim to May Day celebrations.
“May 1 is not an action day, it’s a celebration day. The government’s decision to block Taksim is unlawful. Our celebration area is Taksim Square and we are prepared to celebrate May Day in Taksim” said Çerkezoğlu.