May Day clashes throughout Europe


May Day protesters clashed with riot police in Germany, Turkey and Greece today while thousands angry at the government's responses to the global financial crisis took to the streets in France.

Rising unemployment across Europe and beyond has added intensity to May Day marches as last year's market crash and banking meltdown rolls into the real economy.

There were early morning clashes in Germany and protests in Istanbul swiftly turned violent. Greek police clashed with anarchists.

Turkish riot police fired water cannon and tear gas, firing shots and pepper spray to disperse masked protesters. Young men hurled stones and Molotov cocktails, smashing bank and shop windows in side streets.

An Istanbul police spokesman said 68 demonstrators were detained and 11 police wounded. Left-wing factions and Kurdish separatists regularly clash with police at demonstrations in Turkey and the May Day protest last year also turned violent.

Turkey's government had declared May Day, traditionally marked across Europe and beyond by rallies by labour unions, a public holiday this year under pressure from the unions.

Almost one in three young people in Turkey is without a job and the government fears social unrest and increased ethnic tension because of the downturn. Labour unions, traditionally weak, have become increasingly vocal.

In Berlin and Hamburg, scattered violence began in the early hours of the May Day holiday injuring more than 50 riot police, authorities said.

Some 200 demonstrators chanting anti-capitalism slogans threw bottles and stones at riot police in Berlin, police said, torching five cars. Germany is facing its worst economic crisis since World War Two.

"On the one hand there are people out in the streets protesting peacefully against the economic crisis and there is nothing wrong with that," said police spokesman Frank Miller. "But when people burn cars and rubbish bins and commit other criminal acts - that has nothing to do with political protests."

German police were braced for further violence later when members of far right parties, labour unions and left-wing groups march.

French unions organised nearly 300 marches targeting President Nicolas Sarkozy's social policies and crisis management, with the opposition Socialist party calling on its members to join the protests for the first time since 2002.

France's headline jobless total rose to almost 2.5 million in March, 2.7 per cent up on the previous month. The number of jobseekers under 25 increased 36 percent year on year.

In a sign of how far disillusion has spread, even staff in management positions are expected to take part in the marches."It is absolutely not in our tradition to protest on May 1st, but given the economic context in France and crisis we decided to join in," said Carole Couvert, a leader of the CFE-CGC union for executives.

Greek police said they fired tear gas in a clash with 300 people at Athens Polytechnic.

Elsewhere in Athens, nearly 6,000 protesters, mostly members of a communist trade union, gathered under the watchful eyes of 4,000 police.