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Turkish police detain hundreds at lockdown May Day marches

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ISTANBUL: Turkish police detained 212 demonstrators after scuffles broke out at May Day marches on Saturday amid a coronavirus-related curfew, according to the Istanbul governor’s office and Reuters witnesses.


Riot police and plainclothes officers jostled with union leaders and other demonstrators and threw some to the ground before detaining dozens of them near Istanbul’s Taksim Square, Reuters video and images showed.


The governor’s office said some labour unions were allowed to hold memorials to mark the annual holiday, while others who had “gathered illegally” in violation of the lockdown, and ignored calls to disperse, were detained.


State-owned Anadolu Agency said 20 protesters were also detained in the western city of Izmir.


Turkey this week adopted a 17-day partial lockdown, including stay-home orders and the closure of schools and some businesses, to curb a wave of coronavirus infections.


Local media reported efforts by police in Istanbul and Ankara to block reporters from filming the May Day demonstrations and detentions, with officers citing a new police circular.


On Friday, Turkish media reported that officers were instructed to prevent people from filming or recording security forces on smartphones while they are on duty, a move critics called unlawful and a threat to citizens’ rights.


Turkish police have not commented on the reports.


The DISK press union said on Twitter that journalists filming the May Day events “are being blocked by police’’, adding “a police circular cannot prevent” coverage.


AFP reports that Istanbul police detained dozens of people who were trying to hold a May Day rally in the city on Saturday in defiance of a ban ordered amid the coronavirus pandemic.


At least 100 demonstrators were detained as they attempted to walk to Taksim Square, a traditional area of protest, correspondents said, and in other areas nearby including the popular Istiklal Avenue.


Police officers pushed a crowd back forcefully using their shields, while other officers dragged protesters away, a correspondent said. The Istanbul branch of the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association said 170 people were detained.


Turkey has been under a full lockdown since April 29 with a third wave of the virus causing record numbers of daily deaths. Some 394 people died of Covid-19 in Turkey on Friday, official data showed.


There are often detentions during the annual May 1 workers’ holiday.


Taksim has been a flashpoint on May Day with frequent clashes since 34 people were killed there on May 1, 1977 during an unstable period in modern Turkey’s history.


— Reuters/AFP


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