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Turkey detains over 200 after May Day rallies defy Covid-19 lockdown

Officers in Ankara and Istanbul prevent reporters from filming the scuffle, citing a new police circular
Turkish police detains a demonstrator amid clashes during a May Day rally marking the international day of the worker in Istanbul on 1 May 2021 (AFP)

Turkish police clashed with protesters who broke a Covid-19 curfew by holding May Day marches on Saturday, with at least 212 people detained, according to the Istanbul governor's office.

Riot police and plainclothes officers scuffled with union leaders and other demonstrators, throwing some to the ground before detaining dozens of them near Istanbul's Taksim Square.

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The governor's office said some labour unions were allowed to hold memorials to mark the annual holiday, while others who had "gathered illegally" in violation of the lockdown and ignored calls to disperse were detained.

Some 20 demonstrators were also detained in the western city of Izmir, state-owned Anadolu Agency said. 

With a recent surge in Turkey, the government this week imposed a 17-day partial lockdown, including stay-home orders and the closure of schools and some businesses.

Turkey's third coronavirus wave has caused record numbers  of daily deaths. Around 394 people died of Covid-19 in the country on Friday, official data showed.

Police in Ankara and Istanbul attempted to block reporters from filming the marches and detentions, with officers citing a new police circular, local media reported.

Turkish media reported on Friday that officers were instructed to stop people from filming or recording security forces on smartphones while they are on duty, a move critics called unlawful and a threat to citizens' rights.