72 people detained in May Day celebrations: Istanbul governor
Hüseyin Avni Mutlu categorically dismissed criticism that the massive police presence and the strict measures taken by the authorities were disproportionate. DHA photo
Police detained 72 people in Istanbul today during May Day celebrations, while 22 policemen and three civilians were injured, Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu said while praising the security forces’ handling of the situation.
Mutlu accused what he called “marginal groups,” as well as trade unions, for insisting on celebrating at Taksim, which had been blocked by the governor’s office for security concerns due to the ongoing construction work there. He also claimed that such groups had severely wounded a civilian.
“One of them has been operated on for a head trauma. We have details on this case indicating that [the victim] was injured because of the stones thrown by marginal groups,” Mutlu said, stressing that all three wounded civilians were members of “marginal groups.”
“We wish them a speedy recovery, but we have records showing that they were members of marginal groups,” he said.
Mutlu also claimed that one of the wounded civilians had contrived to injure himself with his own stones.
‘Remarkably proportionate intervention’
Mutlu categorically dismissed criticism that the massive police presence and the strict measures taken by the authorities were disproportionate, claiming that the situation was handled “perfectly” and that the intervention was “remarkably proportionate.”
“Our police teams were forced to withdraw by groups wearing masks and carrying sling shots with iron balls. But our police, which were prepared, performed their duty perfectly. Due to the attacks targeting our security forces, 22 officers were injured,” Mutlu said.
In previous years, there had been many scenes showing police forces hitting demonstrators on the ground with their truncheons, Mutlu said, adding that this year he had seen no such images. “If [the demonstrators] organized a meeting according to our proposition, the tear gas and water cannon would not have been seen. How can you quell demonstrators who hurl iron balls with slings? If somebody knows, he should teach us,” Mutlu said.
The Istanbul Governor’s Office had refused to open Taksim Square this year, arguing that the tunnel construction works would create a potential danger for the demonstrators. A number of unions and associations refused to comply with the ban and asked the governor to step back from this decision.
Half of May Day demonstrators ‘marginal’: Interior minister
Interior Minister Muammer Güler said 8,000 to 10,000 protesters took the streets in Istanbul on May Day, adding that half of the demonstrators were union or association members while the other half were linked to “marginal groups.”
“The marginal groups were only participating to create trouble and resist the police by attacking them with iron balls, stones and sticks. We consider the behavior of these groups as having nothing to do with Workers’ Day,” he said.
Güler, a former Istanbul governor, also dismissed the criticism against police intervention.
“Those who criticize the police should first investigate the attacks and illegal activities targeting the police. We task our police to use coercive means in accordance with the law, and that’s what just happens. We will explain the facts to Istanbulites in the coming days,” he added.
Measures like ‘martial law’: Main opposition leader
Main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu strongly criticized the heavy police intervention during the May Day celebrations in Istanbul against demonstrators who wanted to reach Taksim Square.
“They brought shame on Turkey in front of the world. All the world will talk about Istanbul tomorrow,” Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters May 1. The extreme measures taken by the police forces were similar to martial law, he said, adding that intervening against protesters with tear gas and truncheons was not justifiable in the 21st century.
“A 17-year-old teenager is in hospital and has been operated on. Two polices officers have wrist factures. Why do you [allow] that? [The CHP members] were hit by tear gas while entering their own [party] building. What sort of a repressive mindset is this?”