Workers rally in European cities to mark May Day

In Russia, communists and liberal Kremlin opponents gather to criticize gov't; police clash with demonstrators in Athens.

may day russia 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
may day russia 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Workers rallied Friday in European cities to mark May Day, with tens of thousands of demonstrators across Russia supporting or slamming the government amid growing unemployment and economic troubles. In Turkey, which only last week declared the international labor day a public holiday, riot police used tear gas and water cannons to prevent hundreds from marching on an Istanbul square. Several people were detained, private CNN-Turk television reported. Demonstrators in German capital, where protests are traditionally held the night before May Day, torched trash bins and threw rocks and bottles at police in overnight clashes. Berlin police said 29 officers were lightly injured, and dozens of people were detained. In Athens, police clashed with demonstrators after protesters attacked banks and traffic cameras. Authorities said no arrests or injuries were reported following the brief clashes that occurred after thousands of demonstrators took part in the annual rallies. Police used flash grenades to disperse the violent protesters. Strikes staged Friday disrupted transport services, prompting Greek carrier Olympic Airlines to cancel more than 100 flights. Ferry services from a port near Athens to Greek islands were also halted. No serious violence was reported in Russia, where police were out in force as Communists and liberal Kremlin opponents gathered to criticize the government. Police said four radical young leftists were detained in Moscow when they tried to light flares near the Kremlin. Dozens of nationalists and leftists were detained in St. Petersburg, Russian news agencies reported. It was the first May Day since the advent of the global financial crisis and the end of Russia's oil-fueled economic boom. The Russian economy shrank nearly 10 percent in the first quarter of the year, and unemployment skyrocketed 34 percent to more than 7 million - almost one-tenth of the economically active population. The turnout and tenor of the Russian rallies on Friday, however, suggested the government need not fear a popular uprising unless things get much worse. As in the past, most Russians stayed away from demonstrations and enjoyed the start of long weekend. The largest rallies were organized by the dominant United Russia party and trade unions. Demonstrators expressed concern about the economy, but either praised the government or avoided explicit criticism. Near a central Moscow statue of Karl Marx, however, several thousand Communist Party supporters sang verses praising Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and called for the government's resignation. They accused the current leadership of ignoring the needs of everyday Russians and mismanaging the economy. Amid the Stalin portraits and Soviet-style flags were posters reading "Let the bankrupt government resign" as well as "Where's the money, Dima" and "Where's the money, Vova" - using diminutives of the first names of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. "The government must not squander money on support for big business and oligarchs," Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov told the crowd under a cloudless sky, claiming bailouts have helped Kremlin allies. During the Soviet era, May 1 was a major celebration of worker solidarity, Soviet might and the advent of spring.