As it happened: Police leave protesters bloodied and bruised on Gezi anniversary
Fırat Alkaç - Eyüp Serbest - Çetin Aydın - İsmail Saymaz - Serkan Ocak - Özgün Özçer - Stefan Martens / Istanbul
Police detained some demonstrators while CHP deputy Mahmut Tanal was speaking to the journalists on İstiklal Avenue in Taksim on May 31. Minutes after the incident, police started to attack with tear gas and water cannon on İstiklal Avenue. (Photo: AFP)
Turkey was on alert on the first anniversary of the massive Gezi protests May 31. Calls were made for street action in the flashpoint area of Istanbul's Taksim Square, which was the heart of last year’s demonstrations.
But officials signaled that no demonstration would be allowed in Taksim or any other part of Istanbul, as the police ordered a sweeping deployment to crush any attempt of protest. Tensions ran high as some 25,000 police officers, 50 water cannon trucks (TOMAs), a large number of armored vehicles, as well as helicopters, were dispatched to prevent any gathering at Taksim Square and its environs.
The Istanbul police canceled all holidays and increased the shifts of officers to 12 hours until a second order. Additional policemen from 11 other provinces were deployed to the city as part of measures against possible protests.
“You will not be able to come to those places like you did last year. Because the police have taken absolute orders, they will do all,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during the opening ceremony of a local municipal building in Istanbul hours before the rallies, which were suppressed with characteristic brutality by his police forces.
Despite the government's calls, demonstrators gathered in Istanbul and other cities after a calm morning. The police started to use tear gas and water cannons at 7 p.m. in Istanbul and Ankara, at the same time that protests were held in several cities. Scores of civilians and many policemen were injured.
Here are the live updates as shared throughout the day:
23.00: Although minor clashes continue in a few locations in Istanbul and Ankara, most demonstrations died out after Taksim Solidarity announced that it ended the protests. Officials are expected to announce the number of people who were detained or injured early tomorrow.
22.44: Several people have been arrested in the Beşiktaş neighborhood of Istanbul. Nine demonstrators have been injured in Ankara, two of them were hit by tear gas canisters. Three policemen were injured due to fireworks aimed at them. (Click here for today's 10 scenes of horror)
22.20: In Ankara, 17 demonstrators have reportedly been detained today.
21.45: The Human Rights Association (İHD) has announced that 76 people were detained and 11 were injured during today's demonstrations.
21.25: Most protests have ended in Taksim due to the police brutality. A group of demonstrators staged a sit-in near İstiklal Avenue. Taksim Solidarity left the sit-in without any statement.
21.10: Several residents have been banging their pots and pans on their windows to protest the police particularly in Istanbul neighborhoods of Beşiktaş and Kadıköy since 9 p.m., following the call of Taksim Solidarity. (Click here to read more about the meaning of this Gezi protest)
20.54: Police prevent a group who attempted to cross the Bosphorus Bridge on foot from Istanbul's Asian side to Taksim in the European side. Cihangir (below) and Beşiktaş are among European neighborhoods where police intervention continues. Plainclothes officers deal out more beatings with batons carried in their black backpacks.
20.36: Police have started to intervene in Istanbul's Asian-side district of Kadıköy for the first time today. Riot police dispersed a group of demonstrators who attempted to close a highway to traffic.
20.30: Several people around İstiklal Avenue in Istanbul have been affected by tear gas. Hürriyet reporters observe that almost no civilians are left on the avenue. "Police aren't using as much tear gas as in the past, but there are more beatings and the number of people whom they have detained is more than usual," a demonstrator told Hürriyet Daily News reporter Özgün Özçer.
19.54: Taksim Solidarity said on its Twitter account that it will not make a statement "until the police violence ends." The group said it will not leave the area, either.
19.47: Some demonstrators defend themselves by firing fireworks at police on the side strees of Taksim, while two children were reportedly detained for allegedly shooting stones at police officers with their slingshots.
19.37: İlhan Cihaner, another member of Parliament from the main opposition CHP, was in the crowd that resisted a TOMA on İstiklal Avenue.
19.30: A police vehicle (TOMA) uses water cannon to put out a fire in a trash bin near Galata Tower in the Tünel neighborhood of Taksim amid intense tear gas:
19.26: Habertürk TV reports that police used plastic bullets against demonstrators in Istanbul's affluent Osmanbey neighborhood near Taksim.
19.23: Police also intervened in Istanbul's Gazi neighborhood, a traditionally hotspot for street action, with tear gas and water cannon to stop residents from marching to Taksim. Clashes between the police and the protesters are continuing.
19.18: Several people have been injured and hospitalized after the storefront of a pastry shop was hit by water cannon, shattering its glass.
19.16: Another metropolis where police attacked to disperse Gezi demonstrators at 7 p.m. is the southern city of Adana.
19.15: Police are using tear gas near Kızılay Square in Ankara, too. Demonstrators are trying to re-group.
19.00: Police have started to use tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters around Taksim Square and Gezi Park in Istanbul.
18.55: HDP deputy Levent Tüzel told Hürriyet Daily News correspondent Stefan Martens that the police let them to read a statement in İstiklal Avenue. "We insisted to do it at Taksim Square, but we've been told that the governor won't permit it," Tüzel added.
18.41: Negotiations to march to Taksim Square failed. Police could now try to disperse the crowd on a side street leading to İstiklal Avenue, according to Hürriyet correspondents on the scene.
18.26: CHP deputy Mahmut Tanal has said that 14 people are under police custody, noting that Taksim Solidarity wanted to read a press statement in Taksim Square. "I've been trying to call the governor, but he's not answering his phone," he added at an impromptu meeting with journalists in which Hürriyet Daily News correspondent Stefan Martens participated.
18.19: Members of Taksim Solidarity have tried to enter İstiklal Avenue, but police chiefs have refused to allow them.
18.08: 32 people have reportedly been detained in Taksim so far. The number of people walking on İstiklal Avenue, one of the main entertainment centers of the city, is extraordinarily low for a Saturday night due to the police lockdown.
17.56: The LGBT community hit the streets for Gezi Park again, like they did during last year's protests.
17.45: Çarşı, the hardcore fans of Beşiktaş football club, have announced they will join the march to Taksim at 7 p.m.
17.40: The confrontations between police and demonstrators are sometimes not so tense. Here is a young man teasing police to pose for a selfie with him, as shared by Hürriyet columnist Melis Alphan:
17.33: Several individuals have been detained on İstiklal Ave. by plainclothes police officers.
17.25: The number of people who are individually walking toward Taksim has been increasing remarkably since 5 p.m., according to the journalists reporting from the neighboring districts.
17.07: Rallies are apparently spreading throughout Turkey. 140journos, a citizen journalism initiative on social media, reports from Muğla that a rally is held in the western Turkish city, too:
16.59: "Gezi tents" have been put in the southern Turkish city of Antalya, according to Doğan News Agency:
16.49: Reuters correspondent Hümeyra Pamuk reports from İstiklal Avenue:
16.27: So far, the only person who managed to enter Gezi Park today is Sırrı Süreyya Önder, a member of Parliament from HDP. Önder was the first prominent politician who participated in the Gezi Park protests last year.
16.12: Funicular lines serving the Taksim area have also been stopped by authorities as a precaution to prevent gatherings.
15.44: The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) local branch in the Beşiktaş neighborhood of Istanbul called their members to gather at 6.30 p.m. to march to Taksim.
15.29: CNN International's Istanbul correspondent Ivan Watson has been detained near Taksim Square. (Click here to read the full story)
15.12: Several riot police officers left their vans on Taksim Square and İstiklal Avenue, despite the fact that the number of demonstrators in the area is smaller than the number of security personnel and journalists at this moment.
14.52: Police close Taksim Square to civilians with scores of officers surrounding the plaza.
14.35: Police empty the steps of Gezi Park despite the objections of the book-reading demonstrators.
14.11: A small group of demonstrators initiated a "book reading action" on the steps of Gezi Park near Taksim Square.
13.10: The city's ferry company has announced that all boats running between the Anatolian and Asian sides of the city were cancelled upon the governor office's decision starting from 3.00 pm until a second notice. Police will also be deployed near the bridges crossing to Bosphorus to prevent people from crossing to the other side of the city, just like last year.
11.20: Along with fire trucks, water cannon trucks (TOMAs) and other anti-riot vehicles, some construction equipment, which are commonly used by the police to move road barricades, are seen at the square.
10.50: Istanbul police closed Gezi Park, while the adjacent Taksim Square remained silent in the early hours of the day.
10.00: Some background on the Gezi Park protests from today's HDN: Serkan Demirtaş writes about the main opposition CHP's report which describes the Gezi Park protests as "a historic struggle for democracy," while Güven Sak investigates "the Gezi spirit and Twitter wars."
09.32: Tight measures are also adopted in sensitive neighborhoods, including Okmeydanı, Gazi and Sancaktepe, which are home to large communities of Alevis.
09.00: Scores of policemen are patrolling the roads leading to Taksim Square, particularly İstiklal Avenue, early in the morning.
May 31 marks the first anniversary since a dawn crackdown to remove activists from the park sparked national outrage, leading to protests in other cities.
The Taksim Solidarity Platform, an umbrella association which initiated last year’s protests against the cutting down of trees at Gezi Park, called for gatherings on May 31 to remember victims who died following brutal police crackdowns across Turkey.
The group also called for commemorations of Elif Çermik, a 64-year-old woman who became the latest victim of police violence on May 30 as she died after spending 159 days in coma due to a heart attack triggered by tear gas.
The Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) also called on its members to participate in the demonstrations.
Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu slammed calls for commemorative demonstrations this week reiterating that “measures will be adopted” to prevent any gathering in Istanbul.
Six young protesters died during crackdowns directly connected to the Gezi protests – Mehmet Ayvalıtaş, Abdullah Cömert, Ethem Sarısülük, Ali İsmail Korkmaz, Ahmet Atakan and, most recently, 15-year-old Berkin Elvan. Gezi protesters have also adopted Medeni Yıldırım, who was shot during a protest against the building of a new gendarmerie post in Diyarbakır’s Lice district in June 2013 and Hasan Ferit Gedik, who was killed in a clash between gangs and leftist groups in Istanbul’s Gülsuyu neighborhood last September, as victims of police violence.
Earlier this month, a man in Mersin, Mehmet İstif, also died of cancer widely believed to have been triggered by tear gas shot directly into his mouth during Gezi protests there.
Two more people, Uğur Kurt and Ayhan Yılmaz, died during clashes between police and a group of demonstrators in Istanbul’s Okmeydanı neighborhood last week. Kurt’s killing by a police bullet as he was attending a funeral sparked yet new outrage on the eve of the Gezi anniversary.