May Day demos staged around the world; Turkey square blocked

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At May Day Rallies, Thousands Gather for Workers' Rights

HAVANA (AP) - Left-wing groups, governments and trade unions were staging rallies around the world Friday to mark International Workers Day.

Most events were peaceful protests for workers' rights and world peace. But May 1 regularly sees clashes between police and militant groups in some cities.

International Workers Day originates in the United States. American unions first called for the introduction of an eight-hour working day in the second half of the 19th century. A general strike was declared to press these demands, starting May 1, 1886. The idea spread to other countries and since then workers around the world have held protests on May 1 every year, although the U.S. celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday in September.

Here's a look at some of the May Day events around the world:

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May Day demos staged around the world; Turkey square blocked
HAMBURG, GERMANY - MAY 01: Leftist activists clash with riot police during annual May Day demonstrations on May 1, 2015 in Hamburg, Germany. In Germany May Day traditionally brings out a strong showing of labour unions peacefully demanding improved rights for workers, though the day is often marred by anarchists and other leftist groups ostensibly protesting against capitalism yet eager to seek violent confrontation. Hamburg has a a strong and deeply-routed leftist subculture. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Getty Images)
HAMBURG, GERMANY - MAY 01: Riot police watch left-wing protesters during annual May Day demonstrations on May 1, 2015 in Hamburg, Germany. In Germany May Day traditionally brings out a strong showing of labour unions peacefully demanding improved rights for workers, though the day is often marred by anarchists and other leftist groups ostensibly protesting against capitalism yet eager to seek violent confrontation. Hamburg has a a strong and deeply-routed leftist subculture. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - MAY 01: Anti-EXPO protesters during a demonstration on the first day of the World Exposition Milano 2015 EXPO on May 1, 2015 in Milan, Italy. Anti-EXPO protesters from all over Europe protested on the opening day, devastating the city centre for more than two hours. There were approximately 3.700 police officers for more than 490 sensitive targets.The Expo will run from May 1st through October 31st. Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life is the core theme of Expo Milano 2015. (Photo by Laura Lezza/Getty Images)
Salvadoran workers hold a banner as they march along a main avenue during May Day celebration in San Salvador on May 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARVIN RECINOS (Photo credit should read Marvin RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators march next to policemen during a demonstration during May Day celebrations in Medellin, Antioquia deaprtment, Colombia on May 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO/Raul ARBOLEDA (Photo credit should read RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest calling for a minimum wage increase in front of the ceremony organized by the government attended by Haitian President Michel Martelly, on Champ Mars, in downtown Port-au-Prince, on May 1, 2015, to celebrate International Workers' Day. AFP PHOTO/HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
A small group of Bahraini women, carrying national flags and a banner supporting political prisoners, march quickly between police patrols, on the lookout for violators of a protest ban, in Manama, Bahrain, Friday, May 1, 2015. The government denied permission for Labor Day protests, so protesters in several opposition areas went out in small groups for quick marches between police patrols. The banner reads: "Revolution of Chains, in solidarity with Jaw central prison inmates." (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, left, and Cuba' President Raul Castro acknowledge marchers as they parade past marking May Day in Revolution Square, in Havana, Cuba, Friday, May 1, 2015. Thousands of people converged on the plaza for the traditional march, led this year by the two leaders. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions pull wires to remove a police bus blocking the street as they march toward the presidential house after a May Day rally in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 1, 2015. Thousands of South Koreans marched in Seoul on Friday for a third week to protest government labor policies and the handling of a ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people a year ago. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A poster with a picture of the Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is seen through a cloud of tear gas fired by riot police during clashes with demonstrators, in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, May 1, 2015. Clashes erupted between police and May Day demonstrators in Istanbul on Friday as crowds determined to defy a government ban tried to march to the city's iconic Taksim Square. Security forces pushed back demonstrators with a water cannon and tear gas. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Demonstrators try to protect themselves from water, sprayed by a police water canon truck and tear gas, during clashes in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, May 1, 2015. Clashes erupted between police and May Day demonstrators in Istanbul on Friday as crowds determined to defy a government ban tried to march to the city's iconic Taksim Square. Security forces pushed back demonstrators with a water cannon and tear gas. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Protesters, mostly workers, set on fire to an effigy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III during a rally near the Presidential Palace in Manila to mark May Day Friday, May 1, 2015, a national holiday in the Philippines. Thousands of workers converged near the palace to call for the resignation of Aquino, demand higher wages, better working conditions, fair export labor policies and a halt to contractualization. The sign reads: Oust Noynoy Aquino! (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
A parade float that represents the lack of freedom by encaging a rat and a clown, surrounded by images of Ecuador's President Rafael Correa and the community leaders who support him, arrives at the San Francisco Plaza at the end of an anti-government march, marking May Day, in Quito, Ecuador, Friday, May 1, 2015. Rallies were staged around the world Friday to mark International Workers Day, also known as May Day. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Protesters run toward the Bolivar Square during a May Day march in Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 1, 2015. Left-wing groups, governments and trade unions were staging rallies and marches around the world Friday to mark International Workers Day, also known as May Day. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
A member of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions hurls stones at riot police as protesters march toward the presidential house after a May Day rally in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 1, 2015. Thousands of South Koreans marched in Seoul on Friday for a third week to protest government labor policies and the handling of a ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people a year ago.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Pakistani female workers hold banners to observe Labor Day in Lahore, Pakistan, Friday, May 1, 2015. Pakistan observed International Labor Day with nations worldwide. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
A Pakistani woman shouts slogans at a rally to observe the Labor Day in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, May 1, 2015. Pakistan observed International Labor Day with other nations worldwide. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
Confetti litters the parade route as workers take part in the May Day parade in Quito, Ecuador, Friday, May 1, 2015. Left-wing groups, governments and trade unions were staging rallies around the world Friday to mark International Workers Day, also known as May Day. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
People, some wearing red carnations in their hair, play music and dance during a march marking the international May Day, in Lisbon, Friday, May 1, 2015. A red carnation is the symbol of the revolution that restored the democracy in Portugal in 1974. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
A Bahraini anti-government protester holds up a poster calling for the freedom of jailed human rights activists Nabeel Rajab, left, and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, right, in Manama, Bahrain, Friday, May 1, 2015. The government banned Labor Day protests, so protesters in several opposition areas went out in small groups for quick marches between police patrols. The poster reads: "Imprisoned rights activists! Destroying tyranny and building nations." (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
Cubans march in the rain on Revolution Square marking May Day, in Havana, Cuba, Friday, May 1, 2015. Thousands of people converged on the plaza for the traditional march, led this year by President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Cubans march under the rain for May Day at Revolution square in Havana, Cuba, Friday May 1, 2015. Thousands of people converged on Havana's Plaza of the Revolution for the traditional march, led this year by President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
People march in Revolution Square marking May Day, in Havana, Cuba, Friday, May 1, 2015. Thousands of people converged on the plaza for the traditional march, led this year by President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Ladyrene Perez, Cubadebate)
A Turkish woman waves a national flag during May Day celebrations in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, May 1, 2015. Riot police and May Day demonstrators clashed in Istanbul as crowds determined to defy a government ban tried to march to the city's iconic Taksim Square. Security forces pushed back demonstrators using water cannons and tear gas. (AP Photo / Burhan Ozbilici)
Riot police surround a main square during May Day celebrations in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, May 1, 2015. Riot police and May Day demonstrators clashed in Istanbul as crowds determined to defy a government ban tried to march to the city's iconic Taksim Square. Security forces pushed back demonstrators using water cannons and tear gas.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions try to move a bus blocking a street by pulling ropes they tied near the police vehicle's wheels as police spray fire extinguisher on them after their May Day rally against the government labor policy and the handling of a ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people a year ago in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 1, 2015. Demonstrators occupied several downtown streets and sporadically clashed with police officers, who created tight perimeters with their buses to block the marchers. There were no immediate reports of injuries. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A demonstrator holds explosives during clashes with Turkish riot police officers in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, May 1, 2015. The government assigned 30,000 police officers backed by helicopters as workers and demonstrators determined to defy a government ban, tried to march to iconic Taksim Square, where 35 people were killed during May Day celebration in 1977. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel}
Protesters, mostly workers, march towards the Presidential Palace in Manila to mark May Day Friday, May 1, 2015, a national holiday in the Philippines. Thousands of workers converged near the palace to call for the resignation of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and to demand higher wages, better working conditions, fair export labor policies and a halt to contractualization. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
A member of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions sprays paints to write a message denouncing South Korean President Park Geun-hye on police buses after a May Day rally in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 1, 2015. Thousands of South Koreans marched in Seoul on Friday for a third week to protest government labor policies and the handling of a ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people a year ago. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
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TURKEY

Police and May Day demonstrators clashed in Istanbul as crowds determined to defy a government ban tried to march to the city's iconic Taksim Square.

Security forces pushed back demonstrators using water cannons and tear gas. Protesters retaliated by throwing stones and hurling firecrackers at police.

Authorities have blocked the square that is symbolic as the center of protests in which 34 people were killed in 1977.

Turkish newswires say that 10,000 police officers were stationed around the square Friday.

The demonstrations are the first large-scale protests since the government passed a security bill this year giving police expanded powers to crack down on protesters.

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CUBA

Thousands of people converged on Havana's Plaza of the Revolution for the traditional May Day march, led this year by President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. After attending Cuba's celebration, Maduro was to fly back to Caracas to attend the May Day observances in his own country.

The parade featured a group of doctors who were sent to Africa to help in the fight against Ebola. Marchers waved little red, white and blue Cuban flags as well as posters with photos of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, his brother Raul, and the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Additional marches were held in major cities around the island, including Santiago and Holguin in the east.

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SOUTH KOREA

Thousands of people marched in the capital Seoul on Friday for a third week to protest government labor policies and the handling of a ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people a year ago.

Demonstrators occupied several downtown streets and sporadically clashed with police officers. Protesters tried to move buses used to block their progress. Police responded by spraying tear gas. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

South Korean labor groups have been denouncing a series of government policies they believe will reduce wages, job security and retirement benefits for state employees.

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PHILIPPINES

More than 10,000 workers and activists marched in Manila and burned an effigy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to protest low wages and a law allowing employers to hire laborers for less than six months to avoid giving benefits received by regular workers.

Workers in metropolitan Manila now receive 481 pesos ($10.80) in daily minimum wage after a 15 peso ($0.34) increase in March.

Although it is the highest rate in the country, it is still "a far cry from being decent," says Lito Ustarez, vice chairman of the left-wing May One Movement.

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GREECE

In financially struggling Greece, an estimated 13,000 people took part in three separate May Day marches in Athens, carrying banners and shouting anti-austerity slogans. Minor clashes broke out at the end of the peaceful marches, when a handful of hooded youths threw a petrol bomb at riot police. No injuries or arrests were reported.

Earlier, ministers from the governing radical left Syriza party joined protesters gathering for the marches, including Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis - who was mobbed by media and admirers - and the ministers of labor and energy.

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GERMANY

Police in Berlin say the traditional 'Walpurgis Night' protest marking the eve of May 1 was calmer than previous years.

Several thousand people took part in anti-capitalist street parties in the north of the city. Fireworks and stones were thrown at police, injuring one officer. Fifteen people were detained. Elsewhere in the German capital revelers partied "extremely peacefully," police noted on Friday morning.

At noon, Green Party activists unveiled a statue at Alexanderplatz in central Berlin of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, considered heroes by many on the left for leaking secret U.S. intelligence and military documents. The statue, called "Anything to say," depicts the three standing on chairs and is scheduled to go on tour around the world, according to the website http://www.anythingtosay.com/.

In the central German city of Weimar far-right extremists attacked a union event. Police said 15 people were injured and 29 were arrested.

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RUSSIA

In Moscow, tens of thousands of workers braved chilly rain to march across Red Square. Instead of the red flags with the Communist hammer and sickle used in Soviet times, they waved the blue flags of the dominant Kremlin party and the Russian tricolor.

Despite an economic crisis that is squeezing the working class, there was little if any criticism of President Vladimir Putin or his government.

The Communist Party later held a separate march under the slogan "against fascism and in support of Donbass," with participants calling for greater support for the separatists fighting the Ukrainian army in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

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ITALY

In Milan, police released water from hydrants against hundreds of demonstrators, many of them scrawling graffiti on walls or holding smoky flares during a march in the city, where the Italian premier and other VIPs were inaugurating Expo, a world's fair that runs for six months.

An hour into the march, protesters set at least one parked car on fire, smashed store windows, tossed bottles and chopped up pavement.

Italian labor confederation leaders held their main rally in a Sicilian town, Pozzallo, where thousands of migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia have arrived in recent weeks after being rescued at sea from smugglers boats. Hoping to settle for the most part in northern Europe, the migrants are fleeing poverty as well as persecution or violent conflicts in their homelands.

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SPAIN

Around 10,000 protesters gathered under sunny skies in Madrid to take part in a May Day march under a banner saying "This is not the way to come out of the financial crisis."

Spain's economy is slowly emerging from the double-dip recession it hit at the end of 2013, but the country is still saddled with a staggering 23.8 percent unemployment rate.

"There should be many more of us here," said demonstrator Leandro Pulido Arroyo, 60. "There are six million people unemployed in Spain, and many others who are semi-unemployed, who although they may be working don't earn enough to pay for decent food."

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POLAND

Rallies in Warsaw were muted this year after Poland's weakened left wing opposition held no May Day parade.

Only a few hundred supporters of the Democratic Left Alliance, or SLD, and of its ally, the All-Poland Trade Union, gathered for a downtown rally Friday to demand more jobs and job security.

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BRAZIL

President Dilma Rousseff skipped her traditional televised May Day address, instead releasing a brief video calling attention to gains for workers under her leadership.

In the video, Rousseff says the minimum wage grew nearly 15 percent above the rate of inflation from 2010-2014. Her office said the choice to roll out several short videos via social media Friday was aimed at reaching a younger public.

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AP reporters from across Europe, Asia and Latin America contributed to this report.

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