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Thousands Take Part in World May Day Protests

  • Luis Ramirez

Protesters hold banners during a May Day protest in Ankara, Turkey, May 1, 2017. Workers and activists marked May Day with defiant rallies and marches for better pay and working conditions Monday.

Protesters in the United States and around the world have marked International Workers Day, May Day, with rallies and demonstrations that turned violent in displays of anger against authoritarianism and right-wing politics from France to Turkey.

WATCH: Luis Ramirez video report on protests

May Day is traditionally a day of protest, and this one was no exception. Police fired tear gas on demonstrators rallying in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the scene of past bloody May Day crackdowns.

Tensions in Turkey have been high after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan narrowly won a referendum last month giving him sweeping new powers.

Police arrested more than 200 people Monday.

Violence in Venezuela

May Day protests also turned violent in Venezuela, where there were dueling anti- and pro-government demonstrations. Security forces in the capital, Caracas, fired tear gas at youths throwing stones who were protesting the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

A month of protests against the government have left 29 people dead. Opposition leaders in Venezuela are calling on Maduro to step down, blaming him for the country's failing economy. The president accuses his opponents of trying to overthrow him.

Moscow parade

Things were more jovial in Russia, on what turned out to be beautiful spring day with more than 100,000 marching in Moscow.

Russians dance as they parade on Red Square to mark May Day in Moscow, May 1, 2017, with the Spassky Kremlin tower in the background.
Russians dance as they parade on Red Square to mark May Day in Moscow, May 1, 2017, with the Spassky Kremlin tower in the background.

“This shows people's unity when so many people gather. This is the day of labor, peace and the weather is so beautiful. And we can see the people's feelings by the smiles on their faces,” said Yuri, a march participant in Moscow.

The spirit was in sharp contrast to Saturday, when thousands of Russians lined up to present their grievances in letters at government offices. Organizers of the mass protest said police arrested demonstrators in cities across Russia, including 120 people in St. Petersburg.

French election campaigning

France, which is still under a state of emergency and with elections less than a week away, was on high alert. The government deployed 9,000 police in various parts of the country to keep supporters of the two main candidates, centrist Emmanuel Macron and nationalist Marine Le Pen, apart.

French conservative candidate from the first-round election Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, left, and french far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen sing the "Marseillaise", the French national anthem at the end of their meeting, May 1, 2017, in Villepinte.
French conservative candidate from the first-round election Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, left, and french far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen sing the "Marseillaise", the French national anthem at the end of their meeting, May 1, 2017, in Villepinte.


Le Pen, who wants to curb immigration by Muslims, get France out of the EU, and bring back jobs for French factory workers, led a rally outside Paris, where she called Macron “the candidate of the caviar Left.”

Macron also campaigned Monday, but his supporters were generally not visible among the May Day demonstrators.

Thousands, including labor union activists, marched in central Paris, many of them protesting Le Pen.

Youth, right, face French riot police officers during the May Day demonstration, May 1, 2017, in Paris. Paris police are firing tear gas at rowdy protesters on sidelines of May Day workers' march.
Youth, right, face French riot police officers during the May Day demonstration, May 1, 2017, in Paris. Paris police are firing tear gas at rowdy protesters on sidelines of May Day workers' march.

“We have to block Marine Le Pen, we all agree about that, and we have to do it while stopping further increases in the vote and percentage of Marine Le Pen which would cost us in the future,” said Jean-Claude Mailly, leader of Force Ouvrière, one of France’s main labor union conglomerations.

Demonstrators in Paris threw firebombs and clashed with police.

With elections so near and the issues so divisive, the battle lines could not be clearer on this day of protest.

Protesters take to the streets on May Day in New York to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration policies. (R. Taylor/VOA
Protesters take to the streets on May Day in New York to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration policies. (R. Taylor/VOA

Across the U.S.

In the United States, May Day's rallying point has shifted from workers to immigrants. Thousands of people are marking the day from New York to Los Angeles with protests against President Donald Trump's focus on boosting deportations. Organizations have called for immigrant strikes in some cities to show Americans what a day without immigrants would look like.

In Washington, about 150 businesses closed, most of them restaurants and legal offices. Other businesses in the city offered a paid day for employees who wanted to demonstrate.

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