Mon May 1, 2017 5:39PM
Police arrest demonstrators as they march during May Day, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 1, 2017. (Photo by AP)
Police arrest demonstrators as they march during May Day, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 1, 2017. (Photo by AP)

Thousands of workers in several countries have engaged in clashes with riot police as they mark International Workers’ Day, known as May Day.

In the German capital, Berlin, 40 arrests were made on Monday amid scuffles between the police and demonstrators demanding better rights for workers.

The demonstrators set ablaze a police car and wounded two officers. According to reports, protesters threw smoke bombs in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin.

As many as 5,400 police officers were deployed around the city.

Italy rallies

Elsewhere in Europe, the protests turned even uglier in the northern city of Turin, Italy, where dozens of people were injured after clashing with riot police.

Also trade unions gathered in Portella della Ginestra to mark national Labor Day event.

Three people were arrested after a group began throwing eggs at law enforcement officials. Police say a number of items used in the violence, including umbrellas and sticks, were confiscated during the protest.

“Unless government investments resume, any talk about youth having job opportunities would be a lie,” Italian General Confederation of Labor (CGIL) General Secretary Susanna Camusso said at the event.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella gave a speech at the Quirinal Palace, recalling the massacre of almost a dozen May Day celebration revelers at the hands of Sicilian separatist leader Salvatore Giuliano’s men in May 1, 1947.

“Labor Day, which was stained with blood in Portella della Ginestra 70 years ago, is a celebration of the Republic,” he said. 

Clashes in Istanbul

In Istanbul, Turkey’s most populous city, May Day demonstrations turned violent as a number of activist groups that had attempted to reach the cordoned-off area of central Taksim Square faced police's tear gas and rubber bullets.

Some protesters hurled Molotov cocktails and fireworks at the police forces, who detained over 200 protesters.

“Some illegal groups who want to damage the peace and safety of our people attempted illegal marches and demonstrations, primarily around Taksim Square ... under the pretext of May Day celebrations,” said a statement released by the government.

It added that police had seized some 40 Molotov cocktails, 17 hand grenades, 176 fireworks, "and lots of illegal posters" from the demonstrators.

Police arrest demonstrators as they march during May Day, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 1, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Taksim Square was the traditional site for Labor Day rallies until 1977, when tens of demonstrators lost their lives during rallies in clashes with riot police. The square was reopened for celebrations in the late 2000s, but demonstrators were again banned from marching to it in 2013.

Strike in Greece

Some 10,000 demonstrators in the capital Athens took to the streets and another 3,500 rallied in Thessaloniki, the country's second largest city, on Monday to mark International Workers' Day.

Trade unions had earlier said that they would mark the occasion with a 24-hour nationwide strike in a bid to express their dissent with the looming austerity measures to be applied by the government, as demanded by the country's creditors in exchange for bailout cash.

"Bailout government and the creditors have been squeezing the people and workers for seven years," said civil servants' union Adedy.

As a result of the strike, businesses crippled, ferries and trains were suspended and state services were shut down.

Nearly seven years of austerity have culminated in a spike in poverty levels in Greece. The southeastern European country also has the highest unemployment rate - 23 percent - in the European Union (EU).

Authorities in Greece have severely reduced government spending, frozen hiring, and slashed incomes to keep receiving the rescue loans to shore up Greece’s ailing economy.

May Day clashes in France

Thousands of people, from all ages, held a massive rally in central Paris to mark May Day on Monday. Although the demonstration was largely peaceful, dozens of masked protesters clashes with police along the route. Reports say that at least three police officers sustained injuries in the clashes.

A large number of police personnel were already deployed to control the rallies, which first gathered at the Republique Square and then marched toward the Bastille Square before ending up at the Nation Square.  

The march was held a week before holding the decisive second round of France's presidential election.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron, 39, and far-right Marine Le Pen, 48, won the first round of voting in the presidential election on April 23. Macron finished first on 24 percent, ahead of Le Pen with 21.3 percent. They will now have to contend in the runoff, scheduled for May 7.

Protests in the Philippines and Cambodia

In the Philippines' capital city of Manila, hundreds of activists clashed with riot police as they tried to force their way to the US embassy as part of their May Day demonstrations on Monday.

Anti-riot police block the road to the US embassy in the Philippines' capital, Manila, May 1, 2017.

Over a thousand protesting workers in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, also marked the occasion as they gathered at a blocked street in the vicinity of the National Assembly, calling for better conditions.