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Sendika, 1 May 2008

Fearing workers insistence on celebrating Labor Day, police started its attacks early in the morning. At 6:30AM, the police attacked workers gathering in front of DISK (Progressive Labor Union’s Confederation). Police used tanks and pepper gas against the workers waiting peacefully in front of their unions.

In other parts of Istanbul, clashes start to start as the police attacks all “suspect” groups which may attempt to celebrate May Day. In Okmeydani, a youth is wounded by plastic bullet to his head fired by security forces.

5 bus loads of people arrested randomly by the cops are being held in Police headquarters at Vatan Street.

3:00 PM Police raids the offices of the socialst Freedom and Solidarity Party. Many arrested while police opened fire randomly with real bullets.

2:45 PM Police raids the Chamber of Mechanical Engineers and arrest 16 people present in this occupational association of engineers. Clashes erupt near Taksim Emergency hospital, and Gulbag region of Istanbul. Demonstrations erupt against police brutality. Police is unable to control the demonstrators as they erect barriers against random police attacks. Clashes last over hours in these regions.

2:05 PM Press release by DISK President Süleyman Çelebi: “It is as if the whole city of Istanbul is under siege. There is a stste terror against the people.” Mr. Çelebi said they were against a state sponsored show rally that the government wanted to impose and thus refused to attend a state ceremony. He said, “The governor, Internal Affairs Minister and the Prime Minister should resign. This is not a simple matter we have in our hands today. We will not let it go. We will hold them accountable.” He said the prime minister Erdogan had rolled back all worker rights but only upheld the right of women to wear Islamic head scarves against the law.

Süleyman Çelebi also said the police attacked hospitals with poisonous gas to kill the patients and also forced workers . He continued, “Let them know that we will meet in the Taksim Square. This attack made us bolder. The Prime Minister said, “If the feet became the head the universe will collapse.” We will show him how everything will collapse.”

2:00 PM Police attack a group marching on Siraselviler Street. The democstrators at Cihangir, insisting on celebrating the historical workers day, May Day, erected barriers against brutal police attacks.

Workers attacked by police in Sisli with pressured water retreat towards side streets. Security forces in civilian clothes follow the workers inside alleys and small residential streets. A women who fell in the scuffle and was laying on the street, defensless was kicked in the head by a cop.

1:30 PM A youth, Burhan Gul is wounded from his head when a police plastic bullet hits him in Okmeydani. Attorney Taner announced that his client has been taken to hospital and is under emergency care.

1:20 PM Around 30 people gathered in front of municipal police to protest the police attack against a street vendor. Police was overpowered and the vendors cart was taken back by the people and given back to the vendor. People started chanting “Long Live May Day!”

1:15 PM Another one of our correspondents is arrested.

1:10 PM Police start to attack institutions and raids all opposition associations. The Chamber of Surveying Engineers is raided by the cops in Sisli. The board members are beaten and arrested.

1:05 PM Police arrest our two correspondents trying to report on the events. Police confiscated their cameras. 400 people arrested near Besiktas. They are being held near Inonu sports stadium.

1:00 PM Police is attacking all civilians everywhere. When the store owners asked the fate of a person beaten brutally and arrested by the cops police attacked the inquiring store owners in the neighborhood. Store owners resisted and chanted, “is this proportional force against the people? He could have been our child!”

Police arrested anybody on the street near Macka.

People start to react this uncontrolled police brutality taking place with impunity on the streets in open daylight.
Clashes grow and continue near Taksim Square where a mass of workers are forcing their way to get to the historic site of May Day celebrations. Police arrests people at random.

12:40 PM Workers clash with police at Dolapdere neighborhood. Police attacked a group of workers here with pepper sprays. Clashes spread to the side streets and alleys. Police then attacked Bilgi University. To prevent students from giving support to the workers around 8 barriers are erected.

Workers are waiting at Pangalti and other parts of Dolapdere neighborhoods. Workers are clashing with security forces to push their way towards historic May Day plaza, the Taksim Square. In the neighborhoods of Harbiye, Military Museum and Governer’s Mansion clashes are takig place.

Crowd is gathering around the most popular main street Istiklal. People who could not get into Taksim from Sisli started marching to join forces with the crowd onIstiklal Street.

12:15 PM Clashes continue around Sisli. Some unions are forcing the enterance of Taksim Plaza. A group of around 1,000 workers from Dolapdere are clasing with the cops to get into the plaza.

Reports of more than 40 wounded by police attacks and more than 200 arrests resulting from police attacks since this morning.

12:00 PM Unions hold a press release saying they will march to Taksim Square and leave flowers to commemorate the memory of the workers murdered by security forces in 1977.

11:45 AM Police attack a group of left movements gathered at Istiklal Street. Clashes and bloody confrontations now spread to the side streets.

The members of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) could not pass through the police barricades and retreated back to the party headquarters where they held a press conference.

Police attack to a hospital outrages the patients and their families! Patients are protesting police attack in front of the hospital. A pregnant women caught between the police attack and people trying to defend themselves fainted on the street. Another patient, gassed by the cops, also faints. Patient families and relatives fight against the police and are able to push them back outside the hospital premises.

Unions are holding a press conference in front of the social democratic CHP (Republican Peoples Party) to march towards Taksim Square.

11:30 AM Unions start the march to drop carnations at Taksim Square to commemorate the more than 30 people killed in 1977 May Day by Turkish and US security forces and snipers.

Health care workers union SES and Chamber of Physicians group is attacked by the police.

Two people arrested as clashes grow in the side streets of Istiklal.

House Representative from CHP Mehmet Ali Özpolat affected by the police gas canisters thrown inside the Confederation of Progressive Labor unions (DISK) has a heart attack. Manisa Representative Şahin Mengü said the gas used by the police is illegal even in war situations under the Geneva convention.

11:00 AM Police start arresting anybody they find on the streets around Sisli. Brutal police beatings are reported from the neighborhood.

A group of 1,000 workers waiting in front of the Sisli Mosque are subject to the latest police attack. There are reports of many wounded. Confrontations between people in front of popukar shopping malls and streets grow.

President of the social democratic party DSP and CHP vice president visit DISK (Confederation of Progressive Workers Unions). In a press conference there, both leaders criticized the government.

10:30 AM Police now attack the members of the Chamber of Engineers and Architects.

A journalist taking the photo of the cops clubbing a women on the ground was thrown to the ground as well and beaten to a pulp by the cops. Police threatened the journalist and are forcing them out of the district.

Doctors from the Chamber of Physicians and the health care workers from SES union re-gather in front of the Sisli Eftal Hospital and opened their May Day banner supporting the workers and laborers. They are preparing to start the march again.

10:20 AM Police escalates its attack against the journalists after beating the workers and the patients at a local hospital. Many journalists are being clubbed. Reports that many reporters, including journalist Bülent Usta have been injured from police brutality.

10:15 AM Police is attacking the Etfal Hospital! Cops raid the hospital cafeteria and throw pepper gas into the building. Patients, infants, children and older people are being gassed by the Turkish police.

A person with heart condition faints on the street in Sisli from police gas.

10:10 AM Police gas the Etfal Hospital emergency service! Workers, doctors, nurses, patients and their families are being attacked.

Health care providers gathered in the hospital yard are attacked. Gas canisters are being shot constantly to the hospital yard.

An ambulance bringing a patient in critical condition was also gassed by the police.

10:00 AM Police attack for the 4th time this morning against workers at the headquarters of DISK, the Confederation of Progressive Labor Unions.

Around 100 Attorneys trying to reach DISK building comes under attack by the cops. Police first told the attorneys they could pass after showing their identity cards. But once the attorneys passed, the police assaulted them from behind. Many lawyers are injured from the police brutality.

A group, including 20 parliamentarian representatives, is fighting back against the police in Sisli. Many CHP local governors are marching in this group and they have opened banners supporting the Labor Day.

09:45 AM Local Government Workers Union is gathering in front of the Armenian weekly Agos.

Lawyers are trying to reach DISK building to see and/or carry the wounded out to the hospitals.

Police is throwing gas canisters into residential buildings and are shutting the front gates to poison and to kill the people in the apartments.

Visit Sendika to see video footage and Abahlali baseMjondolo to see photographs.

Turkish Daily News

Clouds of Taksim tear gas force unions to back down
Friday, May 2, 2008

Trade unions are forced to back down from their demand to rally in Taksim Square, under extraordinary police presence. Demonstrators in Şişli disperse under tear gas attacks, but scattered groups protest in streets around Taksim, as hundreds of people are taken into custody.

ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News

The contest of wills between the government and trade unions ended yesterday with unions backing down from their demand to hold a rally in Taksim Square, overwhelmed by thousands of police, soldiers and an repeated clouds of tear gas.

Labor Day, welcomed by mostly peaceful demonstrations elsewhere in the world, turned into something just short of torture for demonstrators, tourists, expats, journalists and the average citizen in Istanbul. Official tallies put the number detained at 505 people with six police officers injured at the time the Turkish Daily News went to press. No official tally of civilian injuries was available late yesterday but journalists witnessed scores of beatings, one marching politician suffered heart problems while another fainted and patients at one hospital were forced to flee after the facility was gassed.

As the day began, Istanbul residents knew what was coming when thousands of police started blocking all roads leading to Taksim Square, the location where trade unions were insistent on celebrating Labor Day due to its symbolic value, as early as Wednesday night. Walking to the square from İstiklal Street yesterday morning, one could observe that riot police � robocops, as they are called � easily outnumbered civilians and journalists, some with gas masks. The scene at the square was surreal as Istanbul’s most lively area was besieged with thousands of polices, the center barricaded with iron fences and Taksim Gezi Park turned into a barracks with hundreds of soldiers awaiting orders. At least 20,000 policemen were in and around Taksim.

That kind of scene was even a bit too much for citizens, but for foreigners, it was shocking. “I am terrified,” said Margarita, a Finnish-born British doctor who declined to give her surname. “Nobody at the hotel warned me of this.” As it was explained the commotion was on account of Labor Day, her confusion only grew. “Labor Day means holiday and big, peaceful demonstrations. This is bloody annoying.” She wanted to reach the Marmara Hotel to meet with her friend so that they could go to Topkapı Palace. The police would not let her. Compounding her problem was the fact “the police inside” would not let her friend out of the hotel either. Through cell phone negotiations, the police were persuaded to let her out. Police in the morning forced their way into the Istanbul headquarters of DİSK, the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions, in Şişli district firing teargas and spraying pressurized water inside. Mehmet Ali Özpolat, a deputy from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) had a heart spasm, while Çetin Soysal, another CHP deputy, fainted.

Controlled force:

At 10:00 a.m. a tear gas canister exploded right beside a group of demonstrators who were chanting “Resign, Governor!” against Istanbul Governor Muammer Güler, who had declared the government would use “controlled force” against protestors. “37MM Multiple Projectile,” it said on an empty canister. From Wyoming to Istanbul.

Hundreds of members of the CHP, workers from different unions and a small group of members of various leftist organizations confronted the police. The CHP’s deputy, Soysal, tried to stand in front of a police armored vehicle, shouting, �Don’t do this, it is wrong.� To no avail.

�Police provoked the people here,� he later told the TDN. �May Day is celebrated all around the world as a day of celebrations, workers paid the price for this right,� he said. �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.�

A group of 200 demonstrators escaped to the narrow streets surrounding Nişantaşı. They chanted slogans and threw rocks at the police. Police answered by tear-gassing almost every street in the neighborhood. Some lowered their launchers when firing, hitting a couple of protestors.

A police car with an unofficial license plate, owned by a high-level police officer, got caught up in the clashes, where its windows were smashed by demonstrators. The scuffle drew protests from citizens, some of whom started hurling rocks at the demonstrators from in front of police lines. �Where are the residents of this neighborhood, aren’t you Turks,� shouted one man just after throwing a big piece of rock. �We cannot let these bastards take our streets,� he said.

Police officers were then applauded by scores of people after they dispersed the protestors. �We are proud of you,� some chanted. �They got what they deserved,� said a shop owner. �They don’t have the right to come here and clash with the police on our streets.�

Hospital targeted:

Later in the morning, the police fired tear gas into the Şişli Etfal Hospital. Patients and unfortunate citizens tried to flee the engulfing fog. Old women coughing and crying were trying to understand what was happening, as it was the first time they experienced such a thing. Drugstores and other shops pulled down their shutters, but the gas infiltrated everywhere.

At the Confederation Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK) headquarters six attacks had been witnessed by 10:20 a.m., said Seyit Aslan, secretary general of Gıda-İş trade union. “The first one came without warning, while people were just sitting in front of the building,” he said. “Deputies have tried calling the governor, the justice minister and the interior minister many times, but they refuse to speak.”

Süleyman Çelebi, president of DİSK, and others moved to the barricades to negotiate with the only official they could talk to, a top police officer. The group included İsmail Hakki Tombul, president of KESK, the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions, Democratic Society Party (DTP) deputies Akin Birdal, Ahmet Türk, Hasip Kaplan and Aysel Tuğluk, and Ufuk Uras, deputy and leader of the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP).

“These events show how far this country is from democracy,” said Ferhat Tunç, a well-known protest music artist. “In the [DİSK] building, I for one moment thought they were going to burn us down. The people should see that the AKP has never been a party that supports democracy.”

“I have been to 37 countries, but never seen such disgrace,” said Necdet Kiran, a former seaman and now municipal worker.

Half an hour later, Çelebi and the others arrived. As expected, they could not obtain permission to march to Taksim. Speaking to the crowd from atop a party campaign bus, Çelebi explained the situation. “Istanbul is a giant prison now,” he said. “In order not to be tools in this government provocation, we end our protest.”

Easier said then done. For the road to Mecidiyeköy and Taksim were barricaded by hundreds of robocops. Some protestors tried to leave, only to be tear-gassed again. Marching or not, the police seemed intent to finish their tear gas stocks. As small crowds in parallel streets tried to demonstrate, only to be tear-gassed again, the temporary solution became another speech to the main group in front of the CHP headquarters in Şişli. After blasting the government and the police with slogans, people dispersed in various streets.

In the afternoon demonstrators moved to İstiklal Street and other locations near Taksim Square. Siraselviler, İstiklal and other streets were filled with poisonous gas. Nearly 500 people were taken into custody during the day, police said. But trade unions put the number at around 900. As scattered protests continued into the evening, Istanbul celebrated another unique Labor Day.

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