Istanbul: 25,000 Police Violently Repress Gezi Commemorations
Posted by snakearbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart
Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:
On the first anniversary of Gezi Park uprising, we the people, with collective consciousness, declared days ago that we wish to commemorate the victims of state violence at ground zero, Gezi Park. There is no need to repeat the fact that according to the Turkish constitution and universal human rights, any kind of peaceful protest can occur without asking for permission of anyone. While the AKP government previously employed plainclothes policemen as provocateurs to make it appear as if police were intervening to suppress violent protests, this time they did not even bother to cover the naked attempt at massacre.
Early on the morning of May 31st, with Gezi Park already closed and Istanbul in lock-down mode, with public transport cancelled, dozens of public buses kept deploying more and more policemen to Taksim Square from the airport where thousands of police officers were brought to Istanbul from all parts of Turkey. Prime Minister Erdo?an declared before the anniversary that anyone showing up on Taksim would have violated laws and that police had received orders to “do whatever it takes to get rid of the people on Taksim Square.”
25,000 riot police, paramilitary forces, 50 TOMAs (water cannons), dozens of riot vehicles, work vehicles, fire trucks, helicopters, all laid siege to Taksim Square to prevent any citizen from entering the park. Except for the vicinity of Taksim, all major squares, surrounding gathering places, mosques, hospitals, and hotel lobbies were occupied by police so that they would not be used as infirmaries or to treat wounded protesters, as happened last year. Taksim Solidarity’s campaign calling for “1 million people to Taksim” must have been absolutely terrifying for Erdo?an to give such immoral orders to stop people at whatever cost. The plainclothes people armed with uniform backpacks, batons and gas masks unleashed all kinds of savagery and brutality arbitrarily against civilians around Taksim Square.
During the day, there were not many problems. Few incidents were observed. However CNN International’s Istanbul correspondent Ivan Watson was harassed on the air. While Watson was on live report to CNN, police came and harassed him, asking for his press card and passport and later kicking him and detaining him while he was on the air, because he was a foreign journalist. This action was part of a systematic sweep of foreign journalists from the area; the orders came from a government that severely criticized the Egyptian coup government that had given similar orders.
CNN’s Ivan Watson detained by Istanbul Police On-Air:
Another significant incident that took place before there was even a protest was the raid of the Liberal Democratic Party’s building and the detention of two liberal activists. Several liberal activists from the 3H (Law Liberty Tolerance) Movement had asked for permission to hang a banner on LDP’s party building, reading in big letters “FEAR NOT!”; however only a minute after the banner was hung, police raided the building. When asked why the activists were being detained, police officers replied “we cannot detain you legally of course, so let’s go for a walk together towards the police station.” The activists were taken to the police station, their phones were confiscated and the data inside deleted (all the photos and videos of the banner being hung). Other movement members on Taksim Square taking photos of the banner were detained and the photos from their phones and cameras were deleted too.
On Taksim Square, when police locked down the park, several young activists took out their books, sat in front of the police, and started reading. After a minute, several police officers started shouting at them, saying “Stop provoking us by reading provocatively, don’t get us nervous like this!” and not long after they pushed the activists away, trying to confiscate their books. Book reading in the park during the sit-in was quite popular on the first day of the Gezi Park protests last year and a Çapulling Library was established in the park during the occupation.
During the day there have been two occupations of train stations on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. While the largest number of policemen were deployed to the European side, the activists in Kad?köy quietly occupied the unaccompanied Haydarpa?a Train Station, which the government wanted to transform into a shopping mall or hotel. Not long after this occupation came a neighboring train station, Göztepe – also targeted by the government to be turned into a shopping mall.
Until 7 PM, police kept pushing people down from Istiklal avenue, and at exactly 7 PM simultaneous attacks began and all hell broke loose. All of AKP’s armed forces started attacking randomly against everyone, gassing, shooting, beating. Dozens of people suffered terrible tortures in day time, in the middle of streets. The newly appearing plainclothes police – much like Iran’s “Basij” (Islamic revolutionary guards) forces – were armed with batons and wore the same yellow jacket. The ratio of the attacks was often ten on one – whenever a protester fell to the ground, 10 to 15 armed “security forces” would run and beat and kick them on the ground him for several minutes.
While all these attacks on civilians were taking place, the media did not deviate from last year’s habit, continuing to show irrelevant programs and documentaries. However there were no reports on penguins this time; this year’s trend was a “strawberry documentary” on CNN Turk. The pro-government media broadcast the events in a completely different manner this time, showing empty/quiet areas and stating that nothing is happening and that the people have lost faith in the protests.
There was no resistance like there was last year. This year’s call for commemoration was simply a day of mourning for the hundreds of miners buried alive as a result of the government’s lack of inspections and indifference towards work-related deaths and for the latest victim of Gezi Park protests: Elif Çermik (64) died in a coma after 159 days as a result of a heart attack caused by tear gas. To commemorate all the deaths that are caused by government’s orders, people wanted to leave flowers in the park, and it is in fact quite a miracle that more deaths did not happen due to uncontrolled police in systematic violation of human rights and attempting to drive all media away from the vicinity.
When the houses of several citizens were raided by people with batons and yellow jackets, they asked who they were and where their permission/warrant papers were. The answer they received was “We have all kinds of permission from the Chief, so you never mind…”
There was another alternative protest in Istanbul as well, to commemorate the Mavi Marmara flotilla, which was raided by Israeli Defense Forces. Nine Turkish citizens were murdered on board by Israeli soldiers. A pro-government NGO held a protest rally to commemorate the loss of lives and campaign for the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque as well as to voice their hatred and threats towards Israel. Thousands marched on the streets from the Sultanahmet, frequented by trourists, to where the Mavi Marmara is harbored, Sarayburnu. No police intervened, no one attacked, no one was hurt… But then again, this was an action in line with the government’s agenda. Double standards are a fact of AKP governance.
As the police had been deployed from across the country to Taksim Square very early during the day and served all day non-stop as protests kept spreading to other districts from Taksim, towards midnight they were getting tired and Taksim Solidarity members were actually able to just walk by into Gezi Park. A couple of hours later there was a group of more than 100 people in the park leaving their flowers… When people entered the park, no one was hurt, and a whole day’s unnecessary use of excessive use of force served to illustrate Erdo?an’s claim to his dictatorial throne, by his very own definition:
“If I were a dictator, would you be able to roam around freely on squares?” (24.05.2014) R.T. Erdo?an
More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com
More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/
Photo by Sasha Maksymenko released under a Creative Commons license.