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Turkish police fire tear gas at May Day demonstrators in Istanbul

News 01 May 2017

left right Plainclothes police officers detain a protester as she and others attempt to defy a ban and to gather at Taksim Square to celebrate May Day, in central Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kemal Aslan 1/21 left right Turkish riot police scuffle with a group of protesters as they attempted to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer 2/21 left right Plainclothes police officers detain a protester as he and others attempted to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer 3/21 left right Plainclothes police officers detain a protester as he and others attempted to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer 4/21 left right Turkish riot police scuffle with a group of protesters as they attempted to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer 5/21 left right Plainclothes police officers detain a protester as he and others attempt to defy a ban and to gather at Taksim Square to celebrate May Day, in central Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kemal Aslan 6/21 left right A man shouts as Turkish riot police detain protesters as they attempted to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer 7/21 left right A woman shouts slogans as people arrive to attend a May Day rally in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal 8/21 left right A woman shouts slogans as people arrive to attend a May Day rally in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal 9/21 left right Turkish riot police launches tear gas grenades and fires rubber pellets at demonstrators during an attempt to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir 10/21 left right Plainclothes police officers detain a protester as he and others attempt to defy a ban and to gather at Taksim Square to celebrate May Day, in central Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kemal Aslan 11/21 left right People celebrate May Day in Istanbul's Taksim Square, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kemal Aslan 12/21 left right Protesters shout slogans as they attempt to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir 13/21 left right Protesters shout slogans as they attempt to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir 14/21 left right Turkish police ride motorcycles during the May Day in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer 15/21 left right A man shouts slogans while protesters hold banners as they attempt to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas 16/21 left right Protesters attempt to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir 17/21 left right Police officers detain a protester as he and others attempt to defy a ban and to gather at Taksim Square to celebrate May Day, in central Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kemal Aslan 18/21 left right Turkish riot police block a street during the May Day in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer 19/21 left right A man chants slogans as people celebrate May Day during a rally in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal 20/21 left right People march with flags during a May Day rally in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal 21/21 By Yesim Dikmen and Mehmet Emin Caliskan | ISTANBUL

ISTANBUL Police in Istanbul fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up a group of May Day demonstrators on Monday, a Reuters witness said, as authorities detained more than 200 people at protests around the city.

Protests for May Day, the international workers' holiday, are an annual occurrence in Turkey and have in the past been characterized by widespread police actions against demonstrators.

Protests were expected to be more subdued this year after unions said they would not attempt to march on Taksim Square, a traditional rallying point for anti-government protests that has been declared off-limits for demonstrators.

Police presence was heavy across the city, with helicopters buzzing overhead. Tensions are particularly high after President Tayyip Erdogan narrowly won a referendum last month giving him sweeping new powers.

Police in the Mecidiyekoy neighborhood used tear gas and rubber bullets on a group of protesters who were attempting to march toward Taksim Square. They were shouting "Taksim is ours and it will remain ours".

The square became the focal point for weeks of anti-Erdogan demonstrations in 2013. Two demonstrators who managed to reach it were detained shortly after they unfurled a banner, Dogan news agency said.

In the Besiktas neighborhood, where two years ago police used water cannon on stone-throwing May Day demonstrators, dozens of people were rounded up for attempting to make their way to Taksim.

"A total of 207 people have been detained," the Istanbul governor's office said in a statement, adding that some 40 Molotov cocktails, 17 hand grenades and 176 fireworks had been confiscated. Illegal posters were also seized, it said.

Rights groups and some of Turkey's Western allies say Ankara has sharply curtailed freedom of speech and other basic rights in the crackdown that followed a failed coup last year.

Since his referendum win, Erdogan has conducted two further purges, targeting the police, civil service and military.

Over the weekend, 3,900 people were removed from the civil service and the armed forces, while authorities blocked access to online encyclopedia Wikipedia, citing a law allowing the banning of access to websites deemed obscene or a threat to national security.

Erdogan says the measures are necessary given the security threats faced by Turkey.

(This version of the story has been refiled to add additional news topic code, no change to text)

(Writing by David Dolan, Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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