Though May Day (also known as International Workers Day or Labor Day in different parts of the world) is supposed to be a day of celebration to mark advances in labor rights, this year's festivities may take a backseat to mass protests and civil strife around the globe, due presumably to the financial crisis.
In Athens, Greece, police were forced to fire tear gas into crowds of protesters in a familiar repeat of the clashes that country saw last December, also due to economic woes and high unemployment. According to Reuters:
"It's a group of 300 people at the Athens Polytechnic," a police official said. The clashes with self-styled anarchists came after more than 6,000 people marched peacefully in the Greek capital in the traditional May Day rallies. There were no injuries or arrests.
Meanwhile in Istanbul, Turkey, police resorted to water cannons to stymie a tide of union worker protesters seeking to march on the main square there. The Turkish government just last week reinstated May Day as a national holiday and granted permits to union leaders to hold public commemorative events, Voice of America reports.
VOA also reports on protests, marked by some violence and arrests, occurring in Germany and Russia. In Hamburg, Germany, 48 protesters were detained for barraging police with rocks and bottles. And in Russia, May Day protests saw a communist resurgence. According to VOA:
Russia's pro-Kremlin United Russia party organized marches in major cities. Several thousand communists gathered at a statue of Karl Marx waving red banners, criticizing official economic policies and calling on the government to step down. Police reported several arrests. Authorities also detained more than 100 people at a rally in St. Petersburg.
Elsewhere, in France, French President Nicolas Sarkozy suffered the wrath of tens of thousands of protesters angry over his government's economic and labor-related policy reforms. According to Earth Times:
Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of France Friday to protest against the policies and reforms of President Nicolas Sarkozy and his government. In an unprecedented gesture of solidarity, all eight major trade unions marched together in the traditional May Day demonstrations to demand that the government do more to avert massive layoffs and that Sarkozy stop the planned reforms of French labour laws.
Across the pond, Fidel Castro is marking the day by excoriating President Barack Obama with accusations of imperialist intentions, AFP reports:
"Today, they stand ready to forgive us -- as if we would resign ourselves to returning to the fold like slaves, who after tasting freedom, go back to the yoke and whip," Fidel Castro said in a defiant address published in Cuban state media to mark May Day.
And on the other side of the globe, South Koreans took to the streets in protest, though these gatherings are reported to have been more peaceful than the clashes in Europe, according to the AP:
Police said about 16,000 people converged on a park near the National Assembly to mark the international labor day. They waved signs and chanted ant-government slogans under clear skies. Some called on South Korean President Lee Myung-bak step down.