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1 May, 2009 22:55

Thousands hit streets for Labor Day rallies

Celebrated since 1890, first under the tsar and then in Soviet times, Thursday marked the 119th Labor Day in Russia.

Tens of thousands took part in marches, some in celebration, some in protest, others to offer their ideas for getting through the financial crisis.

In central Moscow, trade unions were the first to start a march in Tverskaya street carrying banners saying: ‘Job! Salary! Decent life!’ Their demonstration has been supported by the ruling United Russia party, members of which joined the march.

At a rally near the city administration building, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov called for large enterprises to be nationalized and for cuts in the number of migrant workers.

“We need to nationalize everything that has to work for the state and its security,” Luzhkov said. “The first task for the authorities is to support production, the working class and industry,” he added.

The Communists held a march to protest the way the government has been dealing with the economic downturn. They were followed by the Democrats from the Yabloko party and National Bolsheviks, who were banned for the last two years for extremism.

Around 400,000 people took to the streets across Russia. All in all, almost 500 rallies were held nationwide, the biggest ones in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

In St Petersburg, police detained 20 members of nationalist movements who did not notify the authorities of their rally. Also, 100 antifascists and anarchists were taken into custody by police who say they ‘were preparing provocations against national Bolsheviks’.

More than 50,000 people have taken to the streets in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk. In the Urals city of Ekaterinburg around 14,000 people have taken part in a peace rally.

However, not only the political parties were rallying during the day.

Some 200 anarchists came out under a flag of the Skull and Cross Bones in St. Petersburg.

The Pirate Street Party united supporters of all forms of piracy from internet sharing to Somalia's sea bandits.

The event was dispersed by police and hundreds were arrested. Officials deny claims the rally was officially sanctioned.

1st of May worldwide

While May Day rallies across Russia were relatively peaceful, this was not the case in some cities elsewhere around the world

In Turkey, thousands rallied at a site where several dozen people had died during a May Day demonstration thirty years ago.

But the event was marred by violence between riot police and members of left-wing groups. Tear gas was used to disperse crowds and activists threw stones and petrol bombs.

In Athens, police clashed with demonstrators who smashed windows, set alight cash machines and broke traffic cameras. However, unlike the Turkish protests, there were no reports of arrests or injuries.

In Berlin, dozens of demonstrators were arrested after they had set cars on fire and destroyed a tram station.

International Labour Day rallies got out of hand in Chile too. Here police used tear gas on passers-by after protesters threw stones at riot police. Some arrests were made.
May Day is a major public holiday in Chile.