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Ban of May Day rally sparks clashes in Istanbul

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There were clashes in central Istanbul on Thursday after Turkish demonstrators tried to defy a government ban on May Day rallies at the city’s iconic Taksim Square.

Only a few trade union leaders were allowed into the area under police guard to lay flowers commemorating the deaths of at least 34 people there during a May Day gathering in 1977.

Our correspondent in Istanbul Bora Bayraktar, who witnessed the wreath-laying, said: “Taksim Square is a traditional May Day gathering place, but this year it is again cordoned off by riot police, which is why there are only police and members of the media here.

In the streets around the square anti-government demonstrators attempted to break through police lines.

Tear gas and water cannon were met with stones and fireworks.

With the exception of one year – 2010 – May Day gatherings in Taksim Square have not been allowed since 1977 when an unidentified gunman opened fire on a rally there, killing some and setting off a stampede in which people were crushed to death.

Last year’s ban sparked mass protests that spread across Turkey through the summer.

It was one of the biggest challenges to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s rule since he came to power in 2002.

Erdogan has said both last year’s street protests and a corruption scandal dogging his government since December are part of a plot to undermine him, Euronews reports.

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