Istanbul police detains dozens as Turkey marks May 1

Scores of people were detained by police who said they were attempting to make their way to an unauthorised demonstration at Taksim Square (AFP Photo/Yasin AKGUL)

Istanbul (AFP) - Istanbul police detained dozens of people who were trying to hold a May day rally at city centre square on Wednesday in defiance of a protest ban.

Some 127 people were detained attempting to make their way to an unauthorised demonstration at Taksim Square, a traditional focal point of protest in the city, according to Istanbul police, who barricaded nearby roads including the bustling Istiklal Avenue.

Protesters were pinned roughly to police vehicles during the arrests, AFP correspondents said, while tourists in the area were also subjected to baggage searches.

The annual workers' holiday is often marked by confrontation between demonstrators and police.

Several thousand people were able to attend an officially-approved event in the Istanbul district of Bakirkoy, including members of workers' unions and opposition political parties, a correspondent said.

Tensions are heightened in Istanbul after March 31 local elections.

The opposition's Ekrem Imamoglu narrowly defeated the candidate of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to become Istanbul mayor but the AKP has officially requested a rerun of the vote in the city.

One of the protesters taking part in Bakirkoy, Mustafa Comert, said Turkey was at "at a turning point, that change has begun."

He added: "This May 1 will be even more beautiful. It is obvious that this is a consequence of the elections."

Planned May Day rallies in Sanliurfa, southeastern Turkey, were marred when a bus carrying workers from the southern province of Kahramanmaras overturned, killing five people and injuring 12, state news agency Anadolu reported.