efe-epaIstanbul

Turkish police on Tuesday arrested over a dozen demonstrators in Istanbul who were trying to march towards an iconic square that had been declared off-limits by authorities for the annual May Day protests that have traditionally marked International Workers' Day.

Workers and activists rallying for better pay and labor conditions were met with the full force of Turkey's riot police blocking the roads leading to Taksim Square, the site of a 1977 massacre by Turkish security forces that left at least 34 protesters dead and hundreds injured during Labor Day celebrations.

"Taksim cannot be off-limits on May 1!" chanted a group of protesters attempting to access the square before being brusquely rounded up by police, as documented by an epa-efe reporter on the ground.

Many were thrown into armored police vans and taken into custody, as the government had banned the entry of all persons _ except for a small delegation of trade union representatives who laid wreaths of flowers at a monument _ into Taksim Square, citing security concerns.

May 1 is internationally celebrated in most countries _ with notable exceptions such as the United States, Canada or New Zealand _ to promote the class consciousness of the proletariat.

While it traces its roots to the ancient Roman spring festival of 'Floralia,' its modern significance sprang from the history-changing Haymarket riot that took place in Chicago in 1886 during a general strike in which workers demanded the introduction of an eight-hour workday.

The riot erupted after a homemade dynamite bomb was thrown into a group of policemen, killing seven of them, and the surviving officers shot into the crowd of protesters, leaving four civilians dead and more than 70 injured.

The trials that followed led to the hanging of four anarchist activists charged with conspiracy, although there was no evidence that any of them had played a role in the bombing.

Outrage over the trial, which was widely seen as unfair and a sham, eventually prompted the adoption of May 1 as International Workers' Day by the Second International Socialist Congress in 1904.