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May Day Protests in Europe | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

May Day Protests in Europe

My colleague Allison Kilkenny offers details on May Day actions in the United States, where tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest economic inequality. Meanwhile, May Day across Europe brought out demonstrators, strikers and even some picnickers marking the labor movement celebration and demand an end to the austerity agenda sweeping the globe.

In Greece, transit workers engaged in a three-hour work stoppage bringing the capital to a standstill while tens of thousands gathered in Athens’s Syntagma Square. The protesters called for debt-ridden Greece to reject the terms of international bailout loans.

In Russia, there were more than 500 rallies nationwide and millions of people in the streets. President-elect Vladimir Putin and outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev even took part in Moscow’s May 1 Soviet-style procession for the first time.

In Turkey, tens of thousands of people gathering in Istanbul’s Taksim Square were met with a formidable police presence. Although the march was largely peaceful, a group of about 100 people wearing masks attacked shops in the city’s Mecidiyeköy district. The attackers targeted banks, coffee shops and restaurants, breaking shop windows and ATM machines.

In Germany, police broke up a march of tens of thousands at its halfway point as it wound its way from the center of Berlin into the Kreuzberg district—a traditional May Day hotspot. Organizers accused the police of using “unbelievable brutality” to break up the head of the demonstration, and resorted to the use of batons and teargas. Police spokesman Alexander Tönnies said there were some arrests and some demonstrators were injured, though he did not give any figures.

In Spain, which is suffering the industrialized world’s highest unemployment rate of 24.4 percent, organized labor called protests in eighty cities. Tens of thousands gathered in Madrid’s Neptuno Square, protesting new labor reforms that make it easier for companies to fire workers, and a budget cuts in healthcare and education.

In Portugal, which along with Ireland and Greece needed foreign funding to avoid bankruptcy and had to impose deep austerity in return, thousands rallied in Lisbon and other cities calling for “growth, jobs and social justice.”

In England, Occupy London which set up a protest camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral last October before being evicted in February, began the day with a demonstration at Liverpool Street station. Activists taking part in Occupy the Tube handed out flowers, and tents filled with balloons were flown across the station concourse to avoid laws against static demonstrations. After the station protest activists joined the main demonstration, in which approximately two thousand trade unionists and other campaigners gathered at Trafalgar Square.

Not far from Rome, in Rieti, Italy three leading trade unions organized a concert attended by 300,000 young people where labor leaders called for austerity policies to be scrapped in exchange for pro-growth measures.

 

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