World Economy

May Day Rallies Worldwide Turn Violent

Police in most cities where protests were held were on high alert. As is the norm every year, workers in big numbers took to streets demanding decent wages, better working conditions and legal curbs on employers’ ability to fire contractual labor
May Day Rallies Worldwide Turn Violent
May Day Rallies Worldwide Turn Violent

May Day protests turned violent in several cities around the world Monday as "anarchists" forced police to cancel permits and arrest dozens of protesters in a day meant to celebrate workers and the gains made by labor advocates.

Thousands of Americans took to the streets in major US cities such as Washington, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles to join May Day demonstrations for the rights of workers, women and immigrants.

Police in US cities, Paris, Istanbul, and elsewhere were on high alert throughout the day. A rally in Oakland, California, was marred by clashes with pro-Trump and anti-Trump marchers—and police in another city reported Molotov cocktails being thrown at officers, news outlets reported.

Police canceled the permit for the demonstration after "anarchists" began throwing projectiles and incendiary devices, and causing unsafe conditions for protesters, the police Twitter account said.

Incendiary devices thrown at police "included fireworks, smoke bombs and Molotov cocktails," police tweeted, CNN reported.

The Portland Police Bureau said in a statement that officers arrested 25 people after the march "devolved into a full-scale riot with random acts of vandalism."

"Various fires were set in the street and in garbage cans, a police car was spray-painted and vandalized, and there were attempts to set at least one business on fire. Numerous projectiles were thrown at or launched at police and firefighters including rocks, bottles, ball bearings, fireworks, smoke bombs, and road flares," the bureau said.


Police fired rubber bullets and detained protesters in Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, as demonstrations became violent. At least 165 people were detained during protests, according to the city's police headquarters. There was a heavy police presence in the major squares across the city. After authorities canceled celebrations in Taksim Square, a traditional rallying point, thousands of protesters gathered in the city's Bakirkoy district. In addition to supporting workers' rights, marchers gathered to support democratic rights, human rights, freedom of expression and rule of law—rights which are seen to be shrinking in Turkey.


Berlin police arrested several demonstrators who marched through the fringes of a street festival in the city’s Kreuzberg neighborhood, for years the site of protests and violence during May Day rallies. The police said about 8,000 people took part in the march, some of whom lobbed bottles and fireworks at officers clad in riot gear keeping the demonstrators from the revelers. Earlier in the day, 14,000 people marched elsewhere in Berlin under the banners of the German Federation of Trade Unions, calling for a reduction in the number of temporary contracts that companies can offer and for guaranteed social benefits for all employees.


Just days before a French presidential election that pits far-right leader Marine Le Pen against pro-Europe centrist Emmanuel Macron in a runoff, the traditional May Day workers' march took place in Paris alongside an anti-Le Pen protest. Skirmishes broke out, and it didn't take long before police fired tear gas at protesters. One clash was violent: Several officers were hurt as masked youngsters throwing firebombs fought with the police, who used tear gas.


Members of the Communist Party-affiliated All-Workers Militant Front held a 24-hour nationwide strike and protests against looming spending cuts that were demanded by the country’s creditors in return for a third government bailout. Nearly a decade after the start of the global financial crisis, Greece continues to grapple with a debt burden that many economists view as unsustainable.


A large crowd gathered in the Cuban capital's Revolution Square, at the base of the memorial honoring writer and poet Jose Marti. A protester with a US flag briefly interrupted the day's celebration and was dragged off by government security officers.


Hundreds of thousands showed up in the Russian capital to celebrate International Workers' Day, according to state-run media. Reports say turnout was nearly 1.5 million, much higher than in recent years. In Red Square, people waved Soviet and Russian flags, as well as banners supporting President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party. "Decent work, wages, and life" is a common theme at the gatherings. People also took to the streets in Yakutsk, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Kazan, Novosibirsk and Salekhard, as well as in Siberia and the Urals and Volga regions, Tass reported.

In St. Petersburg, demonstrators focused their ire not on any labor issue but on a January decision to return a cathedral, one of the city's most famous landmarks, to the Russian Orthodox Church. Protesters say the church is gaining too much influence and want the cathedral to remain a museum.

South Korea

Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions marched in Seoul holding red umbrellas, which symbolize the right of workers to form labor unions. Among their demands: that companies stop using temporary employees. The trend of circumventing traditional labor protections by classifying workers as independent contractors or as freelance labor is a major theme of the protests.


Workers marched in Nairobi. As in much of the developing world, they are becoming a potent political force, with former agricultural laborers moving to sprawling cities for jobs in manufacturing and in service industries.


A gathering of trade union and student organizations converged outside Georgia's parliament building in Tbilisi, with a group of women's right activists demanding better working conditions and an end to discrimination.


The Union of Independent Trade Unions gathered in Pristina, demanding the government provide better conditions for private-sector workers, which they said can be regarded as slaves at some workplaces, according to Radio Free Europe.


Britain’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell led a May Day rally in London’s Trafalgar Square, calling on people to fight for social problems in the country. Following several incidents in London recently linked to terrorism, security beefed up around central London, with Trafalgar Square itself ringed by a large number of police officers, Xinhua news agency reported. Several thousand trade unionists, representatives from minority groups, austerity campaigners and socialists marched across the British capital.


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