Workers, activists mark May Day with defiant rallies
Moscow – Workers and activists marked May Day on Tuesday with rallies to demand their government address labor issues.
International Workers’ Day is a public holiday in many countries, though activities are restricted in some places, sometimes leading to confrontations.
A look at some of the events around the world:
More than 100,000 people came out on the streets on Moscow to march in the traditional May Day parade.
Moscow’s Federation of Trade Unions said about 120,000 people marched from the Red Square on the main streets of the Russian capital to mark May Day.
Over recent years, the parade became a highly orchestrated show of power by Russian authorities and the ruling United Russia party, with the demonstrators refraining from criticizing the government.
In St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, however, Russians unhappy with the Kremlin’s attempts to curtail internet freedom joined the official May Day demonstration.
Several hundred people braved the rainy weather and joined the column marching across St. Petersburg to protest the government’s ban of popular messaging app Telegram.
About 10,000 people rallied in Moscow on Monday to protest the blocking of Telegram.
Police in Istanbul detained more than a dozen demonstrators who tried to march toward Istanbul’s symbolic main square in defiance of a ban.
Turkey declared Taksim Square off-limits to May Day celebrations citing security concerns. Roads leading to the square were blocked and police allowed only small groups of labor union representatives to lay wreaths at a monument there.
Still, a group of some 25 people, chanting “Taksim cannot be off limits on May 1” tried to push their way into the square but were rounded up by riot police.
Major trade unions were scheduled to mark the day with rallies at government-designated areas in Istanbul and Ankara
Taksim holds a symbolic value for Turkey’s labor movement. In 1977, 34 people were killed there during a May Day event when shots were fired into the crowd from a nearby building.
Thousands of Greeks are marching through central Athens in at least three separate May Day demonstrations.
Museums were also shut while ferries remain were tied up in port and public transport operated on a reduced schedule in strikes marking labor day.
Police said at least 7,000 people were at the first demonstration in Athens, which was organized by a communist party-led union. The protesters marched by parliament and headed up a major avenue to the United States Embassy.
Another four demonstrations were planned in Greece’s second largest city of Thessaloniki in the north.
Trains, the suburban railway, urban trolleys and ferries to and from the islands suspended operations for the day, while buses and the Athens metro system were operating on reduced schedules.
Sri Lanka’s government has postponed the rallies and processions that mark May Day because the weeklong celebrations of the national festival of Vesak carry on until May 2 this year.
The government said in a statement that the decision was taken following requests by leading Buddhist monks, who are very influential in this majority Buddhist country. Vesak is also known as Buddha Purnima and marks the enlightenment of Lord Buddha.
The government has asked political parties and trade unions not to hold rallies on May 1. Some have said they will ignore the government directive and mark the day.
Usually, Sri Lankan political parties and trade unions celebrate the International Workers’ Day with colorful parades and giant rallies to showcase their political and organizational strength.
The government said it will mark International Workers’ Day on May 7.
About 5,000 people from various groups rallied near the presidential palace in Manila to protest the failure of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to fulfill a major campaign promise to end contractualization, the widespread practice of short-term employment.
The protesters also demanded that the government address issues including low wages, unemployment and trade union repression.
Thousands of labor union members rallied in downtown Seoul for a higher minimum wage and other demands.
They chanted slogans urging the government to implement a 10,000 won ($9.34) minimum wage and convert all non-regular employees to regular workers with equal pay and treatment.
The rally was organized by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. The police estimated the crowd at 10,000 people.
The union members also demanded that the government scrap the restructuring of the shipbuilding and automobile industries, and reform the huge conglomerates that dominate the South Korean economy.
About 10,000 workers from various labor groups rallied near the presidential palace in Jakarta to voice their demands.
Most of the workers came from Jakarta and nearby suburbs, but some traveled from West Java and Surabaya.
The protesters urged the government to avoid outsourcing, and to raise their wages. They also asked the government to stop foreign laborers from working in Indonesia, saying it decreases employment opportunities for local workers.
About 2,000 garment workers gathered at a park in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, for a rally organized by a garment union coalition.
The workers wanted to march to the National Assembly to urge lawmakers to help them address labor-related concerns, but the group was stopped by riot police.
Prime Minister Hun Sun spent May Day with some 5,000 garment workers just outside Phnom Penh. He thanked the workers by announcing that each of them will receive 50,000 riel ($12.50). With a general election coming up in July, Hun Sen for the past year has been courting the large bloc of garment workers, whose unions traditionally have been strong supporters of the opposition.
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