Istanbul in Lockdown to Prevent May Day Problems

Istanbul on Friday went into its security lockdown mode as thousands of law enforcement officers closed streets and manned barricades to stop the planned May Day rallies at the symbolic point of all protests – Taksim Square.

Citing concerns over security, authorities shut down the majority of the public transport in the city and dispatched groups of riot police to block off the square from any demonstrators.

The central square, a traditional rallying destination for leftists saw weeks of civil unrest during 2013.

Hundreds of protesters waving flags gathered in a Besiktas neighborhood nearby, where lines of police officers held them back. Thousands of protesters gathered as well to march in Ankara the capital of Turkey.

Critics say that Tayyip Erdogan the President of Turkey and the central government are now much more authoritarian leading up to the elections in June.

Mahmut Tanal the leader of the opposition said the government does not want people to speak publicly about problems in the country before the elections.

The normally full Isitklal shopping avenue that leads to Taksim Square was deserted, with its shops shuttered and side streets blocked with metal barricades. At the same time, the sound of police helicopters overhead could be heard.

The square usually is bustling with people with nearby hotels and cafes. However, in Friday, the square was filled with police buses, satellite broadcast vehicles and ambulances.

Two tourists could be seen emerging from one hotel to find the entire area sealed off, and nervously walked around the line of police.

The government said that Taksim would be open only to those who came peacefully but not for any illegal demonstrations.

Erdogan said through a prepared statement that he wished May 1 would be celebrated without any provocation in a very festive mood.

He previously dismissed the protesters as being riff-raff as well as terrorists, outraged by the 2013 unrest that brought much unwanted attention from the international community and posed the biggest threat to his party since it took power in 2002.

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