May Day Rallies Turn Violent In Turkey & Cambodia
Thousands of workers are gathering worldwide Thursday to commemorate May Day, or International Workers' Day, demanding reform and higher wages. Demonstrations took a turn for the worse, however, with violent protests in Turkey and Cambodia injuring protesters after clashes with police. Security forces in Istanbul used tear gas, water cannons, and rubber pellets against the thousands rallying in Taksim Square after people defied a ban on protests, while in Cambodia, at least five were hurt as police attempted to break up crowds.
Officials shut down parts of Istanbul's public transport system in anticipation of the rallies and in some neighborhoods protesters threw fireworks, stones, and fire bombs. In 2009, May 1 was declared a national holiday. Clashes have broken out in previous years and Taksim Square has been the scene of violence before, with citizens fighting against the administration of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last summer.
Despite opposition from the government, union workers weren't having any of it, Reuters reports. "We will be in Taksim despite the irrational and illegal ban," the main unions said in a statement. "All roads will lead to Taksim on May Day, and our struggle for labor, equality, freedom, justice and peace will continue."
While many cultures celebrate the first day of May as a spring festival, it is widely heralded as International Workers' Day. Working class demonstrators often take to the streets in observance, calling for the better treatment of employees and denouncing low wages.
In Phnom Pehn, Cambodia, officers armed with clubs attacked civilians after opposition leaders spoke to nearly 1,000 supporters in the crowds. Om Sam Ath, an officer of the human rights group Licadho, said at least five were injured and the security forces "seem to be addicted to beating people...and not one of them has been arrested." Much like Turkey, there's been a ban on demonstrations since January, following labor protests for higher minimum wage and opposition against elections.
Meanwhile, Russians revived their own May Day celebrations, with thousands of citizens marching through Red Square in the event organized by labor unions. The parade marked the first time such festivities were held since 1991, the year the Communist Soviet Union dissolved. The sentiment of the Ukrainian conflict was not lost, however, as participants held up banners saying "Let's go to Crimea for vacation" and "Putin is right."
Other protests were held across Asia and Europe, including in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Berlin.