Teachers are among thousands of trade union and pro-democracy activists facing 40,000 riot police in Istanbul today, as they attempt to carry out their democratic right of demonstrating in Taksim Square. The square has been cordoned off with massive steel barricades, as have many squares throughout Turkey as the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan attempts to stifle protest in the country.

Taksim Square is an iconic rallying point for the people of Istanbul and saw last summer calling for democracy and an end to neo-liberal policies of privatisation. A joint trade union statement published yesterday said: "We will be in Taksim despite the irrational and illegal ban. All roads will lead to Taksim on May Day".

Teachers have been in the forefront of the struggle for democracy and against the neo-liberal policies of the Erdogan government and they have paid a heavy price. On the Turkish last November, they were brutally attacked by riot police when they demonstrated against the conditions in which they have to work, including the failure to hire enough teachers, thousands of teachers on temporary contracts and salaries so low that 80% are forced to take another job in order to survive. Moreover teachers' leaders have been and charged under anti-terror laws, which are routinely used by the government to repress dissent.

Today the police are using tear gas and water cannon to repel the thousands of protesters. Only last February the death of a schoolboy, who had been hit at close quarters by a tear gas canister fired by police, brought thousands onto the streets.

Messages of solidarity can be sent to the Turkish teachers' union at