Clashes between Turkey’s riot police and leftist protesters left 90 people injured, including 19 policemen, as police used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators marking the anniversary of a deadly May Day rally in Istanbul.
More than 20 citizens were hospitalized and police detained 142 protesters, the governor’s office in Istanbul said. Istanbul’s independent chamber of doctors said four people sustained head trauma and about 20 people were hit by tear-gas canisters, according to CNN-Turk television.
Police charged into pockets of protesters, some armed with firebombs, steel pellets and rocks, as they successfully kept them away from Taksim Square, the site of a month of protests last summer, state-run Anatolia news agency said. Police seized eight homemade bombs and numerous firebombs, the governor’s office said. Unrest spread to the capital Ankara and the Aegean port city of Izmir, where police clashed with protesters and detained dozens of people, CNN-Turk said.
The government declared Taksim off limits to protesters while allowing leaders of Turkey’s main labor union, Turk-Is, to lay red carnations at the square, where at least 34 people were killed when shooting by unidentified gunmen triggered a stampede during a May Day gathering in 1977. Columns of police officers were on guard in Taksim with their helmets and riot shields today.
The clashes paralyzed traffic most of the day in all three big cities and streets were littered with rocks and broken glass. In Istanbul, protesters smashed windows of a branch of TC Ziraat Bankasi AS in Besiktas district.
The government had shut down most public transportation including the subway, some buses and ferries to prevent crowds from reaching Taksim. It had allowed a May Day rally in the central plaza in 2011 for the first time since 1977, then renewed the ban on security grounds.
Police, meanwhile, detained a passenger who had attempted to divert an Ankara-bound flight to mark the anniversary, Hurriyet newspaper reported, citing others on board. After takeoff from Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, the passenger, who claimed to possess explosives, locked himself inside a toilet and demanded the plane fly to Istanbul, Hurriyet said. The flight landed safely in Ankara.
Turkish Airlines confirmed the detention of a passenger who had locked himself in the plane’s toilet during landing, according to Anatolia. It didn’t say whether he attempted to divert the plane.