Violent clashes erupted between police and protesters in Istanbul today, when hundreds tried to breach barricades and reach the city's main square to mark May Day in defiance of a government ban. Some demonstrators hurled stones, gasoline bombs, and fireworks at riot police, who responded with tear gas as clashes broke out on side streets leading to Taksim Square. Twenty protesters have been arrested and at least two police officers and two journalists have been reported injured.
The Turkish government banned celebrations at Taksim this year over safety concerns; the area is undergoing heavy construction. Trade union groups, however, had vowed to mark May Day in Taksim, which is of symbolic importance because of a 1977 May Day shooting there that killed dozens. Subway, bus, and ferry services across the Bosporus were partially suspended and bridges were closed down today to prevent large groups from gathering there, but throngs of demonstrators, waving flags and shouting anti-government slogans, still tried to access the square. Some 22,000 officers were deployed to police the city. (Read more Taksim Square stories.)