I think Taksim May Day 2010 can largely be considered a success in terms of law and order: batons remained sheathed, gas masks un-donned.
It’s an historic occasion not only because it’s the first time in 32 years people have been allowed to gather at Taksim, but also when contrasted with the chaos of recent May Days. The overwhelming atmosphere was one of celebration rather than tension.
Reuters are reporting that one union leader was hustled offstage as a scuffle broke out midway through, but considering more than 200,000 people attended, things seemed to have passed peacefully.
A continuous stream of families, couples, and groups of friends paused for pictures in front of the Monument of the Republic. Kids climbed up and placed a revolutionary flag in the hands of Ataturk. As people dispersed, other youths scaled the monument to clean it up- a display of civic responsibility I doubt you’d get it in many other European cities.
The police (who we are told underwent anger management classes before the event) kept their distance and seemed cheerful, chatting and taking pictures on their mobile phones.
The speeches, such as I heard them, were served with generous lashings of ‘Arkadashlar!’ (Friends!)
Union leaders gathered to drop carnations at the spot where, 33 years ago, blood was spilt in a massacre which heralded a crackdown on union activity.
I asked one HABER-SEN union member, Yavuz Gedik, 51, for his impressions of the day.
“It was good for Turkey,” he said. “It was not a surprise for me that it went well, it should be done like this.”
He said the opening of Taksim was a ‘political thing’. “They bring down one wall but they set another. Maybe we will see that wall later. Next year we will see.”
Istanbul’s governor Muammar Guler had said beforehand: “This May Day, which I believe will be peacefully celebrated, will be a reference point for subsequent years and will also mark a new beginning.”
The first part of his predication seems to have been largely correct, the second: who knows?