- financial crisis - Germany - recession - Turkey
AFP - Global Labour Day rallies attended by hundreds of thousands of people angered or worried by recession descended into clashes with police in a host of affected countries Friday.
The worst violence was seen in Turkey and across a series of European cities, with Cuba's traditional red-letter day focused on ending decades of a US trade embargo and Zimbabwe's prime minister pleading for patience awaiting international donor investment in its shattered economy.
In Germany, on course for its biggest slump since World War II, Berlin police made 49 arrests as young demonstrators hurled missiles and set fire to cars and bins in the early hours.
About 150 far-right extremists were also taken into custody after skinheads attacked a rally organised by trade unions in the western city of Dortmund, as well as police.
Almost half a million people gathered for peaceful May Day rallies across Germany, unions said, but police were bracing for unrest after nightfall.
Security forces fired tear gas and water cannon in clashes with hundreds of demonstrators in Istanbul and Ankara that left dozens of police and protesters hurt and over 100 youths in cells. Protesters smashed the windows of banks and boutiques.
Violence was also reported in Greece, Switzerland and the northern Austrian city of Linz, as Chancellor and Social Democrat leader Werner Faymann told up to 100,000 supporters in Vienna that he would oppose proposals by employers to impose a wage freeze.
Elsewhere, rallies were mostly peaceful, with organisers everywhere promising to highlight public anger over millions of job losses.
The leaders of France's eight main unions -- presenting a united front for the first time since World War II -- linked arms to lead a rally in Paris.
The CGT union claimed 1.2 million took part in 300 marches nationwide, although the police said that only 465,000 had turned out.
In Spain, where the government expects nearly one in five workers to be out of a job next year, the worst unemployment rate in Europe, tens of thousands turned out across the country including over 10,000 in the capital Madrid.
The Archbishop of Seville, Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo, said "job flexibility and precarity" were causing "justified unease."
In Italy, leaders of the main unions held their rally at the town of L'Aquila in a show of solidarity after the devastating earthquake there last month which killed nearly 300 people.
In Tokyo, some 36,000 people rallied in Yoyogi park, demanding more welfare benefits and others protesting military spending.
In South Korea, some 8,000 workers and students rallied in a Seoul park urging an end to lay-offs and wage cuts caused by the crisis.
There were also rallies in Manila, the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and Taipei.
In Russia, about 2,000 demonstrators gathered by a statue of Karl Marx in Moscow waving banners and red Soviet flags and calling for a return of communism.
In Russia's second city Saint Petersburg, birthplace of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, police arrested about 120 members far right militants armed with knives and knuckle dusters, police said.
President Raul Castro, decked out in a tropi-casual guayabera shirt and farmer's hat, led an estimated 500,000 Cubans called out to march in the Caribbean island's annual May Day parade.
Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told a May Day rally the unity government cannot afford to match union demands for higher salaries.
"This government is broke," Tsvangirai told the crowd. "We are only able to pay you allowances. All of us from President Mugabe to government workers are earning a hundred dollars."
Zimbabwe's Congress of Trade Unions has threatened to go on strike unless wages are increased radically.