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Turkish Police, May Day Protesters Clash

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By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
The Associated Press
Tuesday, May 1, 2007; 12:32 PM

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Turkish police charged into crowds of leftist protesters marking the anniversary of a deadly May Day rally in Istanbul on Tuesday, spraying tear gas and kicking and clubbing demonstrators as they fled.

Police also used a water cannon to clear crowds from around Taksim square. Officers outfitted with helmets, gas masks and truncheons detained 580 demonstrators. Some of the protesters were carrying pistols, firebombs and knives, Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler said.

Authorities had declared the area off limits to protesters but allowed a few hundred of them to lay red carnations at the square, where unidentified gunmen opened fire on tens of thousands of demonstrators during a May Day gathering in 1977. The attack left 34 people dead, most of whom were killed in a stampede.

It was the first time authorities allowed some May Day protesters, including union officials, to enter the square since the 1980 military coup. Police did not allow hundreds of others to reach the square.

Riot police chased small pockets of protesters out of the square, detaining some and leading them away. One group of several dozen marched in a cluster toward the square, but quickly turned back, gasping from the effects of tear gas.

Police surrounded a larger group of several hundred in the square, near the five-star Marmara Hotel, popular with tourists and businessmen.

The protesters raised their fists and denounced Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, chanting, "Resign!"

A police helicopter circled overhead and police deployed several armored vehicles in the square.

Protesters left the square. But police chasing a group in the affluent Istiklal street, lined up with bars, cafes and shops, fired tear gas and water canons to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing demonstrators.

Officials had shut down 41 schools in the area for the day, anticipating clashes with protesters or members of outlawed leftist groups who often clash with police during May Day rallies in Turkey.

Officials had shut down 41 schools in the area for the day, anticipating clashes with protesters or members of outlawed leftist groups who often clash with police during May Day rallies in Turkey.

Authorities had briefly barred live broadcasts from the square, ordering TV trucks not to set up their satellite dishes, apparently for security reasons. Broadcasts were allowed later.

Around 3,000 riot police, reinforced with armored personnel carriers, were seen on guard in the square as snipers took positions on rooftops.

Police blocked several roads in downtown Istanbul as part of their security measures, causing a traffic jam that forced the Istanbul stock market to start trading later than usual.

___

Associated Press Writer Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara contributed to this report.


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