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Cablegate: Istanbul Preparing for Conflict On May Day

VZCZCXRO2036
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBW RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0207 1211607
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301607Z APR 08
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 7630
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA PRIORITY 2352
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
INFO RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 000207

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB PHUM TU
SUBJECT: ISTANBUL PREPARING FOR CONFLICT ON MAY DAY

REF: 2006 ISTANBUL 363


1. (U) Conflicts between police and illegal protestors seem
inevitable as both the government and labor groups have
staked out firm positions with regard to May Day protests in
Istanbul's Taksim Sqaure. The Istanbul Governor had earlier
denied labor groups' request for permission to march on
Taksim Square, following a practice that began after May Day
protests in 1977 resulted in 36 deaths and scores of
injuries. Illegal protests in 2007, the 30th anniversary of
the 1977 deaths, resulted in violent confrontations with the
police and hundreds of arrests. On April 29, Prime Minister
Erdogan refused to yield to union leaders' request to allow
demonstrators to enter Taksim Square. A last minute
compromise was quashed on the morning of April 30 as Interior
Minister Sahin publicly upheld the protest ban.

2. (U) Two major labor unions--DISK and Kesk--have issued a
joint statement that they "are determined to celebrate May
Day in Taksim Square". According to press reports, these
unions vowed to send 500,000 marchers to Taksim on May Day.
Some commentators claim the government is reluctant to lift
the protest ban fearing the gathering could turn into an
anti-Justice and Development Party (AKP) rally since the
ruling party recently passed a controversial social security
package that reduced some worker benefits. The AKP
government tried to reach out to labor by declaring May 1 as
"Labor and Solidarity Day", but this gesture fell short of
organized labor's demand the day become a national holiday.

3. (U) Since 1977, Turkey has banned May Day celebrations in
Taksim Square where 36 people were killed when violence broke
out during the rally. This ban was upheld largely without
incident until 2007 when just under 1,000 people were
arrested when protesters marched on the square despite having
been denied protest permission (see reftel for details).
Police responded with water canons and tear gas in an attempt
to disperse the illegal demonstrators. The violence along
with police barricades and security checkpoints jammed
traffic ithroughout the city, creating a transportation
nightmare for tens of thousands of commuters. As in 2007,
permission has been granted for labor rallies in other
Istanbul neighborhoods including major protest sites in the
centrally located Kadikoy and Cagalayan districts.

4. (U) Istanbul Municipal and Provincial authorities have
attempted to restrict access to Taksim by potential
protestors on May 1 by cancelling all ferry service between
the European and Asian side of the city until noon as well as
cancelling metro, light rail and bus service to Taksim.
Nearby primary schools in the Beyoglu, Sisli, and Kagithane
districts will also be closed. The Consulate General has
issued a Warden Message alerting locally resident American
citizens to the possibility of protests and traffic
disruptions. We will monitor the situation throughout the
day on May 1.
WIENER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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