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May Day 2011: Workers Around The World Protest For Better Pay, Labor Protections

May Day 2011 Protests

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA and SELCAN HACAOGLU   05/ 1/11 08:46 AM ET   AP

ISTANBUL -- Activists flooded a central plaza in Turkey's largest city Sunday and marked international workers' day around the world with marches demanding more jobs, better working conditions and higher wages.

About 200,000 workers gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square in the largest May Day rally there since 1977, when 34 people after shooting triggered a stampede. Turkish unions weren't allowed back until last year.

In South Korea, police said 50,000 rallied in Seoul for better labor protections. They also urged the government to contain rising inflation, a growing concern across much of Asia, where food and oil prices have been spiking and threatening to push millions into poverty.

Thousands of workers also marched in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines to vent their anger over the rising cost of living and growing disparities between the rich and poor.

Chinese holidaymakers flocked to Beijing's Tiananmen Square to watch the daily flag-raising ceremony.

In the Philippines, about 3,000 workers demanding higher wages held a protest in a Manila square that included setting alight the effigy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III grinning in a luxury car. Aquino was criticized this year for buying a secondhand Porsche in a country where a third of people live on a dollar a day.

In Taiwan, about 2,000 people rallied in Taipei to protest the widening income gap and to demand their government create better work conditions. About 3,000 people in Hong Kong took part in a Sunday morning protest while another 5,000 were expected at an afternoon rally, local media reports said, citing union organizers.

In Spain, where the unemployment has reached a eurozone high of 21.3 percent, several thousand people gathered in the eastern port city of Valencia and protested the government's failure to create new jobs.

In Moscow, up to 5,000 Communists and members of other leftist groups marched through the city carrying a sea of red flags to celebrate their traditional holiday, what in Soviet times was known as the Day of International Solidarity of Workers.

Since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the holiday has been known as the Day of Spring and Labor, and organizations from across the political spectrum held their own marches on Sunday.

The dominant pro-Kremlin party, United Russia, gathered the largest crowd by pulling in workers from factories and institutes in and around Moscow. Party organizers claimed that 25,000 people took part.

The holiday also brought out about 30 members of the Syrian diaspora to protest their government's use of military force against protesters calling for an end to President Bashar Assad's rule.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, whose party is the only nominally opposition faction in the Kremlin-loyal parliament, called for national solidarity.

A handful of gay activists tried to join the Communist march, but organizers and police insisted they roll up their flags to avoid conflict.

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Associated Press writers Kelvin K. Chan in Hong Kong, Gillian Wong in Beijing, Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, Aaron Favilo in Manila, Philippines, Lynn Berry in Moscow, Russia and Harold Heckle in Madrid, Spain contributed to this report.

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Filed by Alexander Belenky  |