Workers around world mark May Day with protests, rallies, marches

Tuesday, May 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ May Day brought thousands of workers to the streets in traditional labor parades Tuesday, while a new generation of anti-globalization protesters scuffled with police from Sydney to Berlin.

In London, some store owners boarded up windows and police marshaled a huge display of manpower, hoping to head off trouble by a militant minority among an anticipated 10,000 anti-capitalist protesters.

In Berlin, police used water cannons to break up street blockades, arresting several dozen leftists. Far-right marchers took to the streets later in the day, kept apart from counter-demonstrators by police.

Overnight, some 500 protesters erected barricades, set fires and threw rocks and bottles at police. A police spokesman said 30 to 40 demonstrators were arrested and several officers were injured. About 1,500 mostly drunk protesters set fire to a shed after a street festival near the former site of the Berlin Wall.

In Sydney, Australia, two police officers were hospitalized and 28 others injured as authorities fought with hundreds of anti-globalization protesters. In Brisbane, about 35 activists were arrested and several people injured as protesters tried to storm the stock exchange.

Authorities in London _ nervously recalling some demonstrators' tussles with police last year _ ordered 6,000 police officers onto the streets. Police fear that hardcore activists are planning violence during an afternoon rally on Oxford Street, London's busiest shopping street.

Tuesday morning, police on foot and motorcycles, along with a circling helicopter, kept watch as about 600 cyclists snarled rush hour traffic in central London with a peaceful parade.

``I'm into the peaceful stuff. If anyone pulls out a brick, I'm going to be furious,'' said Daisy Evans, a 34-year-old office planner. ``I'm anti-car, basically. I commute to work every day on my bicycle.''

In France, thousands of workers and trade unionists marched, led by employees who lost their jobs in a recent wave of restructuring in a number of major companies.

``This May 1 is particularly important because of the string of layoffs organized by companies whose profits are rising,'' said Marcel Karbasse, a member of the CGT trade union.

In towns across Russia, hundreds of thousands of people joined marches and rallies _ though the 28,000 who turned out for two rallies in Moscow was a fraction of the number that used to jam Red Square in Soviet times.

Many of Tuesday's marchers carried red flags, portraits of Josef Stalin and other Soviet-era momentos to underline what they see as Russia's decline since the Soviet Union's fall in 1991.

``Even though I had a hard time making it here today, I came to celebrate this holiday because everything has been taken away from us,'' said retiree Lidiya Olennikova in the crowd at a Moscow rally organized by the Communist Party.

In Istanbul, Turkey, 20,000 people marched, many urging the government to compromise with leftist inmates who are staging a monthlong hunger strike over prison conditions. Twenty strikers have died so far.

In China, May Day marks the start of one of the year's biggest travel seasons. The government requires employers to give employees the rest of the week off, in part to try to stimulate the economy by encouraging travel.

Elsewhere in Asia, some 1,000 workers from North and South Korea sang and danced together at Diamond Mountain, a scenic North Korean resort area. The festivities were the first joint May Day celebration since the division of the Korean Peninsula in 1945.

In Seoul, 10,000 workers and students beating gongs and drums marched behind a large banner denouncing the president's economic reforms, reading: ``Down with Kim Dae-jung, who ruined workers' lives.''

About 20,000 Taiwanese workers, waving placards and purple banners reading ``Give Me Work,'' marched through Taipei's government district demanding action to curb the island's jobless rate, which is at a 16-year high of nearly 4 percent.

In Cuba, Fidel Castro's government called for hundreds of thousands of workers to take part in a march past the U.S. government's mission in Havana.

In Phnom Penh, over 2,000 people, mostly young women workers, defied a city order and marched for improved conditions for Cambodia's estimated 150,000 garment factory workers.