Istanbul Governor puts megacity under lockdown for Workers’ Day

The Istanbul Governor’s Office announced measures to prevent Workers’ Day celebrations in the province. By blocking major roads and limiting public transportation across the megacity, the government seeks to prohibit access to Taksim Square where unions and opposition parties called for a large-scale demonstration. 

Police barricades surround the Republic Monument in Taksim Square ahead of May 1.

Duvar English

The Governor’s Office in Istanbul on April 30 announced road closures and public transit limitations to prevent the May 1 Workers’ Day celebrations in the megacity. 

Accordingly, seven stops of Istanbul’s M2 central metro line, funiculars, public bus routes, and metrobus and tram lines running within a five-kilometer radius from Taksim Square will be closed down, beginning from 5.30 a.m. 

The Governor’s Office also closed 74 major avenues and streets to traffic, in four of the city’s most crowded districts: Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş, Şişli, and Fatih. Road closures will come into effect at 4.00 a.m.

Police have also barricaded all roads leading to Taksim Square.

The measures are expected to bring life to a halt in Istanbul, as Taksim lies at the heart of the megacity.

In its announcement, the Governor’s Office claimed that it has taken necessary precautions to “allow Workers’ Day to be celebrated as a holiday, and prevent actions that could negatively affect the city’s peace, safety, and wellbeing.” 

Governor Davut Gül inspected the barricaded Taksim and Beşiktaş Squares and commented that there existed 40 designated rally areas in Istanbul, and they would not allow Workers’ Day celebrations in any other urban area, according to reporting by the ANKA News Agency.

Gül also noted that they have not received any applications to hold “lawful” rallies in the designated areas. “There are rather calls for illegal demonstrations tomorrow,” he continued. 

According to Gül, 42,000 police officers will be stationed across the city on May 1.

One of the “illegal” calls Gül mentioned is from Turkey’s main opposition the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which announced on April 29 that its Istanbul branch would march from the party headquarters in the Saraçhane neighborhood to Taksim Square. 

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party joined the call. Party co-chair Tuncer Bakırhan will be in the group leaving for Taksim Square from the Saraçhane neighborhood.  

Opposition parties cite the Constitutional Court’s December 2023 ruling as they demand entry to the iconic square.

The court found the closure of the iconic Taksim Square for Workers’ Day celebrations violated the right to "assembly and demonstration," given Taksim's "shared memory" and "symbolic value" for workers.

Despite the court ruling, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya held that the government would not allow “terrorist organizations to turn May 1 into a field of action and propaganda.”