At May Day rallies around the world, thousands gather for workers’ rights

At May Day rallies around the world, thousands gather for workers’ rights

Labor unions and workers’ rights groups are staging demonstrations across the world to mark May Day, an annual holiday for workers to gather and fight for increased labor rights.

While many protests are peaceful, some descend into chaos as protesters clash with police or security forces. A rally in Istanbul turned violent Friday morning after demonstrators defied the Turkish government’s ban on May Day protests. Gathered crowds hurled rocks and firecrackers at police, who tried to break up the mass of people with tear gas and water cannons.

International Workers Day has its roots in the U.S. labor union movement of the late 19th century. It specifically commemorates a deadly skirmish between labor protesters and police in Chicago, known as the Haymarket Affair. On May 4, 1886, a peaceful rally pushing for an eight-hour work day turned into a massacre when a bomb was thrown at police and officers opened fire on the crowd.

Large rallies were also held in Spain, South Korea, Cuba, the Philippines and many more countries around the world on Friday. More than 80 countries now recognize the day as a public holiday.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press

  • Seoul, South Korea


    A member of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions hurls stones at riot police as protesters march toward the presidential house after a May Day rally in Seoul. Thousands of South Koreans marched in Seoul on Friday for a third week to protest government labor policies and the handling of a ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people a year ago.

    Image: Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press
  • Paris, France


    France’s far-right National Front president Marine Le Pen, center, surrounded by supporters sing the French National Anthem after her speech at Opera Plaza.

    Image: Francois Mori/Associated Press
  • Madrid, Spain


    People shout slogans as they protest during a May Day rally in the center of Madrid

    Image: Andres Kudacki/Associated Press
  • Istanbul, Turkey


    Demonstrators try to protect themselves from water, sprayed by a police water canon truck and tear gas, during clashes in Istanbul. Clashes erupted between police and May Day demonstrators in Istanbul on Friday as crowds determined to defy a government ban tried to march to the city’s iconic Taksim Square. Security forces pushed back demonstrators with a water cannon and tear gas.

    Image: Emrah Gurel/Associated Press
  • Havana, Cuba


    Cubans hold up posters featuring images of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, from left to right, Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez, and Cuba’s President Raul Castro, as they march in the rain at Revolution Square. Thousands of people converged on the plaza for the traditional march, led this year by President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

    Image: Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press
  • Manila, Philippines


    Protesters, mostly workers, set on fire to an effigy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III during a rally near the Presidential Palace. Thousands of workers converged near the palace to call for the resignation of Aquino, demand higher wages, better working conditions and fair export labor policies. The sign reads: “Oust Noynoy Aquino!”

    Image: Bullit Marquez/Associated Press
  • Colombo, Sri Lanka


    Activists of the Sri Lankan Marxist political party, Peoples’ Liberation Front, march during a rally to mark International Labor Day in Colombo.

    Image: Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press
  • Vienna, Austria


    Participants of the traditional May Day celebrations, organized by the Austrian Social Democrats and trade unions start balloons in front of Vienna’s city hall.

    Image: Ronald Zak/Associated Press
  • Srinagar, India


    Kashmiri activists of the Communist Party of India shout slogans during a protest to mark May Day in Srinagar.

    Image: Dar Yasin/Associated Press
  • Baghdad, Iraq


    Supporters of the Iraqi Communist Party take part in a May Day celebration in Baghdad.

    Image: Hadi Mizban/Associated Press
  • Moscow, Russia


    Communists carry a portrait of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin as they march along Kremlin Towers.

    Image: Denis Tyrin/Associated Press
  • Athens, Greece


    A protester holds a banner which reads: ” It’s either us or them”, during a May Day rally in Athens. In financially struggling Greece, an estimated 13,000 people took part in three separate May Day marches in Athens, carrying banners and shouting anti-austerity slogans.

    Image: Yorgos Karahalis/Associated Press
  • Kiev, Ukraine


    A man shouts and claps his hands as Communists and their supporters celebrate May Day in Kiev.

    Image: Sergei Chuzavkov/Associated Press
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh


    Bangladeshi garment workers and activists gather on a road during a May Day rally in Dhaka.

    Image: A.M. Ahad/Associated Press