Istanbul locked down on protest anniversary

Turkish police on Tuesday imposed a heavy security blanket in Istanbul on the third anniversary of fierce 2013 protests

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Turkish police on Tuesday detained several activists and imposed a heavy security blanket in Istanbul on the third anniversary of protests that posed the biggest challenge to the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The May-June 2013 protests began as a grassroots movement to stop plans for the redevelopment of Gezi Park in central Istanbul but snowballed into a wave of nationwide wave of anger against Erdogan.

The demonstrations eventually fizzled out after a heavy-handed police response and the security forces have since reacted harshly with water cannon and tear gas to even the smallest anti-government rallies.

Hundreds of armed police were deployed in Taksim Square next to Gezi Park, with access to the center of the square and the park barred to the public throughout the day, an AFP correspondent said.

Despite the center of the square being fenced off with metal barriers, hundreds of opposition activists held a march in the evening down the Istanbul’s main shopping avenue Istiklal Street nearby.

The protest largely went off peacefully but police scuffled with a splinter group of dozens of people, making arrests, the correspondent said.

Similar protest rallies were also held in the capital Ankara and the southern resort of Antalya but there were no reports of major unrest.


Meanwhile, police detained 16 activists at the offices of the city’s architects chamber near the Ottoman-era Yildiz Palace, which had opposed the Gezi Park development and strongly backed the protests, local media reports said.

Those detained included the chamber’s general secretary Mucella Yapici and lawyer Can Atalay, both prominent figures in the Gezi movement. Reports said they had failed to obey an eviction order.

An AFP reporter saw them being taken away in a police bus. They were later released and took part in the Istiklal protest rally.

Eight people were killed in the nationwide unrest which followed the Gezi Park protests. Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time, famously rubbished the protesters as “hooligans”.

The low-key anniversary came a day after Erdogan laid into the western media for being allegedly “blind, deaf and dumb” to a police crackdown on demonstrators in strike-hit France, despite broadcasting “uninterrupted” coverage of Turkey’s 2013 protests.

In apparent response to his words, pro-Erdogan bloggers on Twitter launched a campaign urging people to beware of France as it stages the upcoming Euro football championships in France, under the hashtag “FranceisnotsecureforEuro2016.”