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World: International Labor Day Marked With Parades, Protests

A Communist Party supporter holds portraits of Vladimir Lenin and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin during a May Day celebration in Kyiv (AFP) International Labor Day is being marked around the world with parades but also with many protests, and even riots. Concerns about rising food and fuel prices are taking center stage, especially in the developing world.

In the Philippines, thousands of people marched through the capital, Manila, holding banners and shouting slogans against the government and President Gloria Arroyo. They demanded job security and protection against rising food and gasoline prices. Some of the protestors dressed in rice sacks, and tempers ran high.

"Gloria Arroyo is the food crisis!," one woman shouted. "Stop corruption! Her policies go against people’s needs!"

Prices of rice have doubled in recent months, raising the specter of widespread hunger, according to Josua Mata, secretary-general of the Alliance of Progressive Labor, a trade-union umbrella organization.

"With the great number of Filipinos going hungry, the workers are here, gathered to protest the weakness and the ineptness of this government to push for policies that will truly solve our problems," Mata said. "It's irritating to see that the government is only doing stopgap solutions that don't really address the food crisis."

Tear Gas, Water Cannons

In neighboring Indonesia, it was a similar scene, as more than 15,000 trade unionists marched through Jakarta demanding higher wages to protect workers against rising costs. Riot police backed by trucks with water cannons stood guard outside the presidential palace.

In Turkey, meanwhile, police used clubs, tear gas, and water cannons to break up crowds of workers and students trying to reach a main Istanbul square for a Labor Day rally banned by the government. Authorities said 180 demonstrators were detained and six police officers were injured by early afternoon. HaberTurk television said 30 people were injured.

In Russia, by contrast, most May Day rallies across the country were peaceful. But in Russia, too, many people protested against soaring inflation. According to government statitics, prices in Russia this year have already risen by more than 6 percent. In the Urals city of Chelyabinsk, some 14,000 people marched under the slogan, "Let salaries rise higher than prices!"

In Moscow, Mikhail Shmakov, president of the Federation of Trade Unions of Russia, echoed those calls. "What we need in Russia are adequate wages to match the prices for goods and services around us, which are already at world levels," Shmakov said. "Of course, this can't be achieved in one stroke, but more active movement toward that goal must begin today!"

Appeal To Youth

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, holding a bunch of red carnations, used the occasion to make a pitch to young voters, telling them the Communists are fighting for their interests, too.

"[Young people] feel current problems more sharply," Zyuganov said. "They would like to live in a respected, strong country, and at the same time to feel secure that they will have a good job, a decent salary, and a real family."

But in Moscow, it was the ruling Unified Russia party that drew the largest crowds, with some 20,000 people marching in its processsion.

In Ukraine, thousands of laborers rallied across the country to demand better living conditions, while Communist Party supporters gathered in the capital, Kyiv, and elsewhere.

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