PARIS — Citizens and trade unions in cities around Europe were taking to the streets on Sunday for May Day marches, and to put out protest messages to their governments, notably in France where the holiday to honor workers was being used as a rallying cry against newly reelected President Emmanuel Macron.
May Day brings high emotions for the participants as well as their causes. Police are always on standby. Turkish police moved in quickly in Istanbul and encircled protesters near the barred-off Taksim Square — where 34 people were killed In 1977 during a May Day event when shots were fired into the crowd from a nearby building.
On Sunday, police detained 164 people for demonstrating without permits and resisting police at the square, the Istanbul governor’s office said. A demonstration organised by the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey at a location on Istanbul’s Asian side saw thousands of people singing, dancing, and waving banners.
After a two year pandemic, an Italian mega-concert was held in Rome. There were also protests throughout the country. Besides work, peace was an underlying theme with calls for an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Italy’s three main labor unions were focusing their main rally in the hilltop town of Assisi, a frequent destination for peace protests. This year’s slogan is “Working for peace.”
“It’s a May Day of social and civil commitment for peace and labor,” said the head of Italy’s CISL union, Daniela Fumarola.
There were other protests planned all across Europe. Students and others rallied in support of Ukraine at gatherings held by anarchists, communists and anti European Union groups.
In France, the May Day rallies — a week after the presidential election — are aimed at showing Macron the opposition he could face in his second five-year term and to power up against his centrists before June legislative elections. Opposition parties, notably the far left and far right, are looking to break his government’s majority.
France was the focus of protests, with the CGT union (Communist-backed) leading the march through Paris. It was joined by several other unions. Everyone is pressing Macron to make policies that place the people first. They also condemn his plan to raise retirement age from 65 to 62.
In a first, far-right leader Marine Le Pen was absent from her party’s traditional wreath-laying at the foot of a statue of Joan of Arc, replaced by the interim president of her National Rally party. Le Pen was defeated by Macron in last Sunday’s runoff of the presidential election, and plans to campaign to keep her seat as a lawmaker.
“I’ve come to tell the French that the voting isn’t over. There is a third round, the legislative elections,” said Jordan Bardella, “and it would be unbelievable to leave full power to Emmanuel Macron.”
This report was contributed by Nicole Winfield, Rome, and Zeynep Birginsoy, Istanbul.
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