World Europe 30 Apr 2016 Istanbul, police loc ...

Istanbul, police lockdown, May Day, security

AFP
Published Apr 30, 2016, 9:00 pm IST
Updated Apr 30, 2016, 9:00 pm IST
The metro station on the main Taksim Square will be completely closed.
A woman passes through police barriers on the Taksim square, in Istanbul. (Photo: AFP)
 A woman passes through police barriers on the Taksim square, in Istanbul. (Photo: AFP)

Istanbul: Istanbul braced for a major security lockdown for May Day on Sunday, with almost 25,000 police on duty and numerous roads closed for an occasion that regularly sees clashes between Turkish protesters and police.

The Istanbul governor's office said in a statement Saturday that in order "to provide for the security of citizens" on labour day, 24,500 members of the Turkish security forces would be on duty in the city.

 

The metro station on the main Taksim Square will be completely closed and the station at the end of the main shopping street Istiklal Caddesi will be closed to exiting passengers.

Security measures are already evident in Taksim Square -- a focus for protests in the past -- with metal security barriers lining the roads and dozens of anti-riot police present, an AFP correspondent said.

Numerous roads -- in particular those leading to Taksim -- will also be closed, it added.

The authorities, as in previous years, have refused to allow an officially-approved demonstration to take place on Taksim Square, meaning clashes are highly probable.

 

The Hurriyet daily reported that police have requested all bars and clubs in the Beyoglu area around Taksim -- a popular nightlife spot -- close at midnight overnight Saturday to Sunday for the sake of public order ahead of the protests.

Trade unions and labour groups are being allowed to hold an official demonstration on a market site in the outlying district of Bakirkoy, close to the city's main airport.

But this is unlikely to attract the attention of the anti-government leftists who will likely try to protest in areas around Taksim and Besiktas on the Bosphorus.

 

May Day comes at a time of particular tension in Turkey after a succession of deadly attacks this year blamed on jihadists and Kurdish militants.

Controversy is also growing over the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom critics accuse of increasingly authoritarian tendencies.

Several foreign missions have warned their citizens over the risk of violence in Istanbul on May 1, with the US embassy warning of the "potential for violent confrontation between demonstrators and security personnel".

On May 1 last year, Turkish police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse May Day protesters in Istanbul, while police and demonstrators engaged in pitched battles in some areas.

 

Parliament last year passed a controversial security bill giving the police greater powers to crack down on protests.

Taksim has been a flashpoint for clashes on Labour Day since dozens of people were killed there on May 1, 1977 when modern Turkey was going through one of its most turbulent periods.

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