Thousands march in Moscow’s Red Square for May Day rally

A Russian Communist party activist carries a banner with an image of late Soviet leader Joseph Stalin during a May Day rally in central Moscow on May 1, 2016. KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

Trade unions and other groups are staging rallies around the world to mark International Workers Day. A look at some May Day events:


Russian Communist party members and supporters take part in the traditional May Day demonstration, Moscow. EPA/MAXIM SHIPENKOV

Tens of thousands of people marched across Moscow’s Red Square on a sunny Sunday morning in a pro-Kremlin workers’ rally. The protesters were carrying the Russian tricolour and balloons.

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As is typical for rallies organized by the ruling United Russia party, the May Day rally steered clear of criticizing President Vladimir Putin or his government for falling living standards. The slogans focused on wages and jobs for young professionals.

Left-wing Russian groups held their own rallies.

This year the May Day coincided with the Orthodox Easter in Russia. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov told Russian news agencies ahead of the rally that he celebrates Easter despite the Communist party’s history of oppressing the Russian Church. When a supporter greeted him with “Christ has risen!” Zyuganov echoed “He is risen indeed!” in a traditional Orthodox greeting.


Riot police take positions as part of the traditional May Day march in Paris, France, Sunday, May 1, 2016. AP Photo/Michel Spingler

Fearing France’s worker protections are under threat, unions, students and others are marching through Paris and other French cities on Sunday.

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The traditional May Day rallies are taking on greater weight this year as parliament is debating a bill that would allow longer working hours and let companies lay workers off more easily.

The bill has prompted the most violent labour-related protests in a decade, with small groups of angry youth repeatedly smashing storefronts and baton-wielding police clearing crowds with tear gas. While most of the demonstrators have been peaceful, police are expected to be guarding Sunday’s marches.

The Socialist government hopes the relatively modest labour reform will reduce chronically high unemployment and make France more globally competitive, by allowing companies more flexibility. Opponents say it erodes hard-fought worker protections and call it a gift to corporate interests.


Debris burns on a street after police dispersed protesters in the Okmeydani neighbourhood during a May Day demonstration on May 1, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Turkish police used tear gas and water cannons Sunday to disperse dozens of May Day demonstrators in Istanbul.

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Small scuffles broke out between police and demonstrators trying to reach Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square. Taksim has symbolic meaning as the centre of protests in which 34 people were killed in 1977.

In the Istanbul districts of Sisli and Bakirkoy, police fired tear gas and water cannon to scatter other protesters. They also rounded up at least 36 demonstrators, according to Anadolu Agency.

The state-run news agency said police deployed to 15,000 officers and 120 water cannons in Istanbul, which has witnessed two suicide bombings this year.

May Day marches were held elsewhere in Turkey without incident but were cancelled in the southern city of Gaziantep after a car bomb attack on a police station.

In the coastal city of Izmir, some demonstrators stripped down in protest over police body searches at a square where people were allowed to gather, according to local media.


Hundreds of protesters, mostly workers, march with pink umbrellas towards the Presidential Palace to mark the International Labor Day Sunday, May 1, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

In Manila, about 2,000 left-wing protesters scuffled with riot policemen, who used shields and a water cannon to try to prevent the flag-waving demonstrators from getting near the U.S. Embassy. Labor leaders said 20 protesters were injured.

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Some of the protesters managed to break through the police cordon. TV video showed some of them punching a retreating police officer and using wooden poles to hit a fire truck.

Police made no arrests and the protesters dispersed after about two hours.

May Day rallies were held across the Philippines, with campaigning entering the final week ahead of the May 9 presidential election. Some of the candidates pledged to address labour complaints.

“We’ll see the real colour and what will become to the sweet promises when one of them sits as president,” left-wing labour leader Elmer Labog said.


Taiwanese workers shout slogans during a May Day rally in Taipei, Taiwan, Sunday, May 1, 2016. Thousands of protesters from different labor groups protest on the street to ask for raising minimum wage and shorter working hours. AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying

In Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, labour unions took to the streets with a march to call on the government to reduce working hours and increase wages.

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Many among the Taiwanese public have been concerned that outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou’s push for closer economic ties with China has benefited just a few. Young Taiwanese have seen wages stagnate and good full-time jobs harder to find as the export-led economy has slowed.

Chen Li-jen, a protester with the Taiwan Petroleum Workers Union, said that while companies were seeing their earnings per share grow every year, workers’ salaries were not rising in tandem.

“Hardworking labourers are being exploited by consortiums,” Chen said.

“For the past decade, our basic salary has not made any progress,” he said. “Labourers’ rights have always been neglected. This is why I hope to take advantage of the May 1 Labor Day protest and tell the government that we are determined to fight for our rights.”

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