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Cablegate: May Day 2008: Police Disperse Demonstrators,

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBW RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0208 1221618
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 011618Z MAY 08
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 7631
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA PRIORITY 2353
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8093
INFO RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 000208

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV PHUM TU
SUBJECT: MAY DAY 2008: POLICE DISPERSE DEMONSTRATORS,
PREVENT ON MARCH ON TAKSIM

REF: A. ISTANBUL 207
B. 2006 ISTANBUL 363
C. ANKARA 730

1. (U) The Istanbul police were out force to prevent
pro-labor demonstrators from marching to Taksim Square for an
unauthorized May Day rally. Union supporters originally
intended to defy Istanbul Governor Guler's ban on the march
(ref A), yet turned back after clashing with police.
Suleyman Celebi, Chairman of the Confederation of
Revolutionary Workers' Union (DISK), called off the march
citing "common sense" as his reason.

2. (U) City authorities were better prepared for this year's
May Day demonstrations, seeking to avoid the violence and
massive traffic disruptions that caught many off guard one
year ago (ref B). Thousands of police were positioned around
Taksim Square, blocking all roads into the historic square.
Police quickly reacted to the unsanctioned march, using water
cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowd. By mid-afternoon
505 people had been arrested and 6 police officers had been
injured.

3. (U) In addition to the attempted march on Taksim, tens of
thousands of labor supporters demonstrated at three
authorized locations in Istanbul. Relatively peaceful rallies
occurred in areas in the Zeytinburnu, Kadikoy, and Caglayan
districts where rallies and marches are typically held. Guler
also reportedly agreed to permit labor union leaders to lay a
wreath at Taksim square. Due to conflicts between labor
leaders and police at the scene the wreath laying did not
take place.

4. (U) Tensions over the May Day rally this year were high in
part due to the recent passage of a Social Security reform
law (ref C) that will reduce some worker benefits including
significantly raising the retirement age. A sharp exchange
between union leaders and government officials, including the
Prime Minister, also served to raise expectations of a
confrontation.

5. (U) Comment. May Day 2008 was not a repeat of the
violent, chaotic events of 2007 as many had feared. Better
planning and greater outreach on the part of municipal
transit and police authorities enabled local residents to
work around illegal protests -- that although disruptive,
were not out of the realm of the expected by Turkish
standards. End Comment.
WIENER

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