Protesters run as riot police fire teargas during a protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul June 11, 2013
Protesters run as riot police fire teargas during a protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul June 11, 2013Reuters File

The Turkish police has put the country under lock down ahead of the May Day rallies, to prevent protesters from reaching the Taksim Square, where hundreds of workers were killed by government forces on International Labour Day in 1977. 

The authorities have shutdown all public transport and deployed an army of riot police to ensure that the crowd of protesters do not reach Taksim, a traditional rallying point for leftists.

As hundreds of protesters waving flags were held back by the riot police in Besiktas, many voiced concerns that President Tayyip Erdogan's government was increasingly becoming authoritarian ahead of the June election.

"This meeting is peaceful and is not armed," opposition politician Mahmut Tanal, waving a pocket-sized book of the Turkish constitution, told Reuters.

"People want to express their problems but the government doesn't want those problems to be heard ahead of elections."

Despite the heavy police presence, local Turkish reports claim that several hundreds of protesters turned up at the Besiktas district shouting "Long Live May 1!" and "shoulder to shoulder against Fascism!"

Erdogan government that was shaken by weeks of deadly anti-government protests in May-June 2013 centred on Taksim Square does not want a recurrence of the incident.

In Istanbul alone, 20,000 riot police have been deployed along with 62 water cannon trucks. Similarly restrictions have been placed in Ankara as well.

Since 1 May, 1977 when hundreds were killed, Taksim Square has served as a point for clashes on Labour Day.

"In 1977 there was a massacre. We simply want to the there (Taksim Square) to commemorate that date. We cannot do it any other way, it is too symbolic for us," Umar Karatepe, a leader of the DISK labour confederation, told AFP.

Also read