PARIS (AP) — Citizens and unions in cities across Europe took to the streets on Sunday for May Day marches and to send messages of protest to their governments, including in France where the holiday to honor workers was used as a a cry rally against newly re-elected President Emmanuel Macron.
May Day is a time of great emotion for participants and their causes, with the police ready. Turkish police moved quickly in Istanbul and surrounded protesters near the closed off Taksim Square – where 34 people were killed in a 1977 May Day event when shots were fired into the crowd from a building next to.
On Sunday, police arrested 164 people for protesting without a permit and resisting police in the square, Istanbul’s governor’s office said. At a site on the Asian side of Istanbul, a May Day rally drew thousands of people, chanting, chanting and waving banners, a protest organized by the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey.
In Italy, after a two-year pandemic lull, an outdoor mega-concert was staged in Rome with rallies and protests in cities across the country. Besides work, peace was an underlying theme with calls for an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Italy’s three main unions were concentrating their main rally in the hilltop town of Assisi, a frequent destination of peace protests. This year’s slogan is “Working for Peace”.
“It’s a May 1st of social and civil commitment for peace and work,” said the head of the Italian CISL union, Daniela Fumarola.
More protests were planned across Europe, including in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, where students and others planned to rally in support of Ukraine as communists, anarchists and anti-European groups staged their own gatherings.
In France, the May Day rallies — a week after the presidential election — are meant to show Macron the opposition he could face in his second five-year term and to stand up against his centrists ahead of the June legislative elections. Opposition parties, especially the far left and the far right, seek to break the majority of his government.
Demonstrations were planned across France with a focus on Paris where the Communist-backed CGT union led the main march in eastern Paris, joined by a handful of other unions. All are pressuring Macron for policies that put the people first and condemn his plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65.
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 beaten by Macron in the second round of the presidential election last Sunday and plans to campaign to retain her seat as legislator.
“I come to tell the French that the vote is not over. There is a third round, the legislative ones”, declared Jordan Bardella, “and it would be incredible to leave full powers to Emmanuel Macron”.
Nicole Winfield in Rome and Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed to this report.