May Day protests: Turkey arrests hundreds as rallies sweep globe

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Turkish riot police officers scuffle with demonstrators in IstanbulImage source, Reuters
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Protesters skirmished with riot police during a May Day protest in Istanbul, Turkey

Turkish police have arrested more than 200 people for holding unauthorised protests on May Day, which has seen rallies across the world despite the continued spread of Covid-19.

The protesters in Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, were caught breaching restrictions imposed to curb a third wave of coronavirus.

Marches led by workers and unions are held on 1 May every year as part of International Labour Day celebrations in many countries.

This year, the rallies took place once again against the backdrop of a pandemic that has destroyed livelihoods and upended economies worldwide.

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German riot police stepped in to break up rallies in Berlin that were deemed to be in breach of Covid-19 restrictions
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Labour unions traditionally lead rallies worldwide on 1 May, such as this one in Turin

In many countries, police were deployed in large numbers to deal with possible disorder and ensure coronavirus restrictions were observed.

Scaled-back rallies were held in Germany, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the UK, Cuba, Colombia, the Philippines, Indonesia and many other countries. Most demonstrations were peaceful.

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Swedish police officers take a protester into custody in Stockholm
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Tensions were high in many cities, such as Paris, as the effects of the pandemic continue to be felt

But Turkey was among several countries where police were embroiled in May Day protests that turned violent on Saturday.

The office of Istanbul's governor said 212 people had been arrested after they broke away from marches and tried to enter Taksim Square, a symbolic area of protest.

Pictures showed chaotic scenes in which police used their shields to push back crowds and dragged some protesters away from the square.

The country went into its first full pandemic lockdown earlier this week, in a bid to curb a surge in infections and deaths.

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Riot police detained demonstrators as they attempted to march on Taksim Square in Istanbul
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Scuffles between riot police and demonstrators broke out in the Turkish city

In France, at least 46 people were arrested in the capital, Paris, after some marchers clashed with riot police, threw stones, smashed windows and set fire to rubbish bins.

French government agencies condemned one protester who was pictured assaulting a firefighter as they attempted to extinguish a blaze in the capital.

The Interior Ministry said more than 106,000 people marched at almost 300 rallies organised in Paris and other cities, including Lyon, Nantes, Lille and Toulouse.

The protesters voiced their opposition to government plans to change unemployment benefits and demanded economic justice.

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Riot police were out in force in the French capital
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Barricades were set alight in the streets of Paris

Similar demands were heard in Germany, where May Day protests were held nationwide despite the introduction of tougher Covid-19 rules last week.

In the capital, Berlin, thousands of police were deployed to monitor multiple demonstrations, including one organised by a group that opposes the government's coronavirus strategy.

An estimated 10,000 cyclists staged a peaceful anti-capitalist protest in the city.

But as darkness fell, the mood grew more tense as protesters set barricades alight and confronted police who were trying to enforce Covid-19 regulations at a left-wing demonstration.

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Workers of the wheels united for an anti-capitalist protest in Berlin
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Large crowds were seen in Berlin, where protests were held in defiance of Covid-19 restrictions
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German police were pictured dragging some protesters away in the capital
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Berlin police broke up a left-wing demonstration, prompting a reaction from some protesters

Coronavirus was on the agenda in Indonesia as well.

At one rally, protesters in the capital of Jakarta laid mock graves on the street to symbolise the human toll of the pandemic.

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Mock graves were laid in the street at one May Day rally in Indonesia
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Rallies were held in multiple cities across Indonesia

Labour Day celebrations were unusually muted in Cuba, where workers gather for large events to commemorate the communist revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959.

But for the second year running, Cuba called off its May Day march though Havana's Plaza de la Revolution Square, as the country battles Covid-19 and an economic crisis.

Instead, a small number of national leaders gathered at largely empty public spaces, while citizens were urged to celebrate at home.

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Cuba's May Day celebrations had little of the usual pomp and circumstance
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Labour Day is one of the biggest events of the year in Cuba

In Brussels, Belgium's capital, officers trying to clear a dance rave from a park used water cannon, pepper spray and batons as some of the partygoers pelted them with eggs.

During the commotion, one demonstrator was knocked unconscious after they were struck by a water cannon truck, local media said.

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Police used water cannon to clear the park of revellers in Brussels
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The Brussels event was organised in part as a protest against the government's coronavirus measures

Meanwhile, a proposed law that would give police extra powers to curb protests was one of the main subjects of grievance at protests in the UK.

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The "Kill the Bill" protest saw thousands of demonstrators march through London
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Some protesters set off red flares during the London march against the policing bill

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