May Day riots erupt across Europe

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Police in Berlin and Istanbul clash with May Day demonstrators while other rallies are expected in France, Spain and Italy.

BERLIN – Police in Germany and Turkey fought pitched battles with May Day demonstrators on Friday as the traditional labour rallies around the world were dominated by the international economic crisis.

Young demonstrators hurled bottles and rocks at police in the Friedrichshain district of Berlin in the early hours. Police said they made 49 arrests and that about 30 officers were injured.

Clashes were also reported in the German port city of Hamburg.

Several hundred demonstrators battled riot police in central Istanbul. Water cannon was fired and several arrests made, correspondents at the scene said.

Turkish riot police staged three charges against hundreds of demonstrators in the Sisli district of the city who had hurled rocks at security forces. At least eight people were injured, including two police officers, NTV television.

Several thousand union and left wing activists took part in the annual protest, chanting 'hand in hand against fascism', 'repression won't stop us' and 'long live the revolution and socialism'.

The Turkish parliament on Wednesday passed a law making 1 May a national holiday again. It was taken off the public holiday list following a military coup in 1980. On 1 May 1977 suspected extreme right wing snipers opened fire on May Day demonstrators in the Taksim Square in Istanbul, killing 34 people.

Rallies were held around the world, with organisers everywhere promising to highlight public anger over the crippling recession which has seen millions lose their jobs.

Communist Party supporters carried a portrait of Soviet icon Vladimir Lenin paraded through Moscow. Police arrested dozens of far right and anti-immigrant supporters in Saint Petersburg.

In Italy, leaders of the main unions held their rally at the town of L'Aquila in a sign of solidarity after the devastating earthquake there last month which killed nearly 300 people.

In Tokyo, some 36,000 people rallied in Yoyogi park, demanding better welfare benefits amid the recession and others protesting military spending.

Many more youths and people in their 20s joined the event than in recent years, including a group of young women who waved banners that read "Raise salaries!" and "No more overtime work!"

In South Korea, some 8,000 workers and students rallied in Seoul park urging an end to lay-offs and wage cuts caused by the crisis.

There were also rallies in Manila, the Cambodian capital and Taipei.

Security forces were on alert across Europe on Friday for troubles when the main rallies start on the continent.

About 5,000 extra police were to be deployed in Berlin on Friday to avert troubles by far-left demonstrators that have marred the labour day holiday for two decades in Germany.

Germany is in its deepest recession since World War II, with the government this week predicting one of the deepest downturns among major economies.

Extra police were also on duty for demonstrations across France. Unions agreed for the first time in many years to hold a united main rally to the Bastille monument in Paris rather than hold rival events.

In Athens however, Greek unions organised rival rallies. Major demonstrations were also planned in Spain where hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs in the past year.

AFP / Expatica

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