Workers and activists marked May Day yesterday with rallies to demand their government address labour 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 as reported by the Associated Press (AP):
France: Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo joined political figures to condemn violence during May Day protests in the French capital, Paris, that she blamed on “hundreds of masked individuals.”
A car, a motorbike and a construction digger were among vehicles set on fire by vandals yesterday as dramatic plumes of smoke swirled into the air.
Others smashed up a McDonald’s restaurant, which was left blackened with smoke inside. A Renault dealership and another car shop were also smashed up and vandalized. Police said about 20,000 demonstrators took part in often angry demonstrations that authorities tried to disperse with tear gas.
Russia: 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.
In St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, however, Russians unhappy with the Kremlin’s attempted 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.
Turkey: Police detained dozens of demonstrators during May Day events around Istanbul, most of them protesters who tried to march toward the city’s symbolic main square in defiance of a ban. Turkey declared Taksim Square off-limits to May Day demonstrations citing security concerns. Police blocked roads leading to the square but allowed small groups of labor union representatives to lay wreaths and flowers at monuments there.
Still, small groups of demonstrators, chanting “Long live May 1” and “Taksim cannot be off limits on May 1” tried to push their way into the square throughout the day, leading to scuffles with police. At least 45 demonstrators were detained.
Cuba: Communist Party head Raul Castro and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel led a Labour Day parade yesterday, the first joint appearance by both leaders since Diaz-Canel was chosen to lead the island’s government.
Both arrived at the Plaza de la Revolucion to commence the parade that drew hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom carried posters with the face of former President Fidel Castro.
Greece: 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 labour 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.
Puerto Rico: Thousands of Puerto Ricans march to protest pension cuts, school closures and slow hurricane recovery efforts as anger grows across the U.S. territory over looming austerity measures. Yesterday’s protest attracted teachers, retirees and unionized workers from both the private and public sector. Mayor of the capital Carmen Yulin Cruz was among those marching.
Germany/Austria: Tens of thousands of workers marched across Germany and Austria rallying for their rights in the face of globalization. In Vienna, some 12,000 people gathered in front of city hall, some carrying banners with slogans against planned welfare cuts by the new government.
Meanwhile, around 4,000 union supporters marched on different routes through Berlin, before assembling at the German capital’s landmark Brandenburg Gate. “We have more rich and even richer people than we ever had before,” said protester Aimo Tuegel in Berlin. “And, on the other hand, work and working conditions for workers continuing to get worse.”
Scandinavia: Danish labour union officials and left-leaning lawmakers started the day with traditional addresses to employees at work places throughout the Scandinavian country. Later in the day, thousands gathered in large parks around the country, despite rain, chilly temperatures and winds, to listen to May Day speeches that often criticized the center-right government.
While May Day was mainly a left-leaning event in Denmark, the right and the left flanks held speeches in Sweden and Norway.
Swedish Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Lofven suggested retired people should get more as he toured elderly homes while the center-right opposition rejected the idea.
In Norway, Sylvi Listhaug, a former justice minister until she resigned in March for writing a Facebook post claiming the opposition Labor Party was more interested in protecting the rights of terrorists than the Norwegian people, lashed out at its leader Jonas Gahr Store who heads Norway’s largest party, for not being folksy, and warned against a weak immigration line.
Spain: More than 70 cities across Spain held May Day marches calling for gender equality, higher salaries and pensions now that the country’s economy is back on track. The demonstration in Madrid was among the biggest, with thousands rallying behind the slogan “Time to win.”
Macedonia: Hundreds of trade union members gathered outside the Macedonian government building in the capital on May Day to protest poor labor conditions and to call for the protection of workers’ rights.
Cyprus: Hundreds of Greek Cypriots joined with Turkish Cypriots in May Day celebrations to demand a peace deal reunifying ethnically divided Cyprus and to protest against what they see as a burgeoning gap between rich and poor.
Philippines: 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.
South Korea: Thousands of labour 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.
Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s government postponed the rallies and processions that mark May Day because the weeklong celebrations of the national festival of Vesak carry on until May 2 (today) 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.