International Workers' Day

Massive May Day protests in Nepal, Greece but not France

A Madrid, quelques milliers de manifestants défilent dans le centre. L'Espagne a dépassé la barre des 20 % de chômeurs ce vendredi.
A Madrid, quelques milliers de manifestants défilent dans le centre. L'Espagne a dépassé la barre des 20 % de chômeurs ce vendredi. Reuters

Nepal’s Maoists mobilised tens of thousands on a May Day protest in Kathmandu on Saturday. There were historic international workers’ day demonstrations in Turkey and Greece, while opposition to Arizona’s immigration law should make itself felt in the US later in the day.


Traditional May Day demonstrations kicked off in Asia and are following the sun round the globe. Here are some of the highlights of the day:

France: Unions seem to have failed to mobilise as many demonstrators as they had hoped on demonstrations they said would show opposition to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to raise the retirement age, as well as for wage rises and employment. Turnout is reported to be lower than in 2009.

Explainer - the history of May Day
A 1920 Russian poster for May Day celebrations

Nepal: Hundreds of thousands of Maoist supporters filled the streets of the capital, waving hammer-and-sickle flags in a bid to drive the coalition government out of office. Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, announced a general strike from Sunday. The Maoists have the largest number of seats in parliament but lost power in 2009 in a clash with the president.

Turkey: Columns of people carrying party and union flags marched into Istanbul's Taksim Square where May Day marches have been banned since bloodshed during a similar rally in 1977. The government's decision to open the square comes after parliament reinstated May Day as a national holiday in 2009. Previous attempts to hold rallies in the square have been met with police crackdowns.

Greece: Tens of thousands protested against austerity plans aiming to tackle massive public debt, with police clashing with youths on the fringes of demonstrations in Athens and Thessalonoki.

Sri Lanka: Political parties are holding May Day rallies for the first time since the end of Tamil separatist revolt in the north. Nearly a dozen meetings were scheduled in the capital. The opposition has said their celebrations this year will be muted as they recover from a crushing defeat in January presidential elections.

Macau: Police fired water cannon and pepper spray to prevent demonstrators marching along a main road where tourist attractions are located. About 1,000 people joined a march to demand job protection and tough action against illegal employment.

Hong Kong: Several thousand protesters demanded a minimum wage of 33 HK dollars (three euros) per hour.

Taiwan: Thousands demonstrated against a planned trade pact with China, the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement, which the government hopes to sign in June.

Cambodia: Thousands of workers, mostly from the textile sector, demanded better working conditions and the establishment of a labour court. They marched to a news stand where union leader Chea Vichea was shot dead in broad daylight in 2004.

Indonesia: Thousands joined a demonstration in Jakarta to demand better social security for workers. Union leaders called for May Day to become a public holiday.

Lebanon: Protests focus on the plight of domestic workers, mainly women from Asia or Africa. NGOs say that many work as virtual slaves, with an average of one death, from an accident or suicide, per week.

Senegal: Unions are protesting against falling living standards and job losses, as well as a plan to abolish a legal limit of two years for short-term contracts.

Romania: Thousands of opposition Social-Democrat rallied against the government across the country. In Bucharest, demonstrators held banners accusing the centre-right Prime Minister Emil Boc of trying to "humiliate Romanian people" and blaming his government for the rise in unemployment and poverty.

Russia: A 104-year-old World War II veteran was killed and 21 people were injured in a blast at celebrations in Russia's restive North Caucasus region of Kabardino Balkaria. About 5,000 communists, some carrying portraits of Joseph Stalin, headed a 20,000-strong demonstration also joined by supporters of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Palestinian territories: About 2,000 Palestinians protested at Israel's blockade of Gaza and for workers' right to travel to work, at the Erez crossing into the territory.

Cuba: President Raul Castro presided over a May Day march staged as a show of unity in the face of what his government charges is a US and European-backed campaign to destroy the Cuban revolution.

United States: Demonstrations are planned in more than 70 cities as hispanic organisations mobilise to demand the repeal of Arizona’s immigration law which makes it a crime to lack proper immigration papers. Downtown Los Angeles is expected to play host to the largest demonstration. A rally in 2006 attracted some one million people.

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