ANKARA - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he would not let unions stage a May Day rally in Istanbul's Taksim Square, where huge protests took place last year, in an announcement that may set the scene for fresh clashes there.
The government has suggested next week's traditional gathering should take place at a special venue on the outskirts of Istanbul, rather than in the city center, but unions have rejected that idea.
The authorities issued a similar ban last year, leading to thousands of anti-government protesters fighting with police as they tried to breach barricades around the huge square, which in previous years was a focal point for labor demonstrations.
That violence was followed by mass protests that spread across Turkey late last May, in one of the biggest challenges to Erdogan's rule since his AK Party came to power in 2002.
"Give up your hope of Taksim," Erdogan said at a meeting of AK lawmakers in parliament.
"The people do not want to see protesters clashing with police in the street. The people don't want streets scenes dominated by stones, sticks and Molotov cocktails."