Ankara police turns into fierce crackdown in a day

Ankara police turns into fierce crackdown in a day

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Ankara police turns into fierce crackdown in a day

The police carries out a surprising crackdown on Ankara’s Tunalı Hilmi Avenue, where peaceful demonstrations were held for six days. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Compared to previous days, the ninth day of the Gezi Park protests saw more police violence in the center of Ankara on June 5, despite the government’s public declaration that the security forces had been instructed to exercise restraint.

Police again used tear gas and water cannon to quell protesters late afternoon in Kızılay Square, most of whom were members of unions who had called for a strike in solidarity with the Gezi Park demonstrations. After intervening and dispersing the majority of the crowd in Kızılay, the police made an announcement to the rest and called on them to disperse.

Both the rapid and sudden intervention and the announcement of the police were prompted by a claim that a group planned to put up tents in Güvenpark of Kızılay Square. Unlike Gezi, Güvenpark is venue to intense pedestrian flow and is surrounded by both public bus and dolmuş stops – a shared taxi that runs set routes within cities.

The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), the Public Workers Unions Confederation (KESK), the Turkish Doctors’ Union (TTB) and the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) as well as members of left-wing political parties and members of civil society organizations were all present at the Kızılay Square during the day.

In early evening and following the fierce crackdown in narrow streets surrounding the Kızılay Square, the police carried out a surprising crackdown on Ankara’s Tunalı Hilmi Avenue, where peaceful demonstrations were held for six days in the absence of any provocations.

The profile of the crowd that had gathered in Tunalı Hilmi Avenue reflected a young middle-class person, either a university or high school student, or a young white-collar worker. Although fewer, middle-class and middle-age white-collar workers were also present, some of them having experienced the mass political student movements of the 1970s and 1980s, and now willing to see the kind of movement which they hadn’t ever seen in the past.

It was particularly astonishing for them to see a generation, whom they labeled as apolitical, rebelling against pressures by the governing authority.

Just like they did in the earlier evenings, those “rebels” were staging a passive resistance by singing songs, chanting witty slogans, holding banners and Turkish flags, bouncing with slogans with references to the founder of Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The most political slogan among those was “We are the soldiers of Mustafa Kemal,” and the most ideological thing that they sang was “the Youth Anthem,” with an emphasis on the line “Let’s march friends.”

Impact of the messages of restraint from politicians on June 4, Tuesday and an apology offered by Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç for fierce police crackdown on the initial protests were observed on the night of June 4 as Ankara police was more patient while intervening into protests.

As a result, the crackdown, most particularly on peaceful crowds, only a day after the police’s moderate approach, caused confusion.

Police used tear gas and water cannons primarily on tents, which were just put up in Kuğulu Park on June 5 similarly to Gezi Park in Istanbul.

Demonstrators, who had not hesitated to gather along with their families and children following the days-long peaceful environment around Kuğulu Park of Tunalı, where demonstrations started on May 31, were running away in panic when the police appeared using tear gas and water cannons.

Not only protestors in the streets, but customers in restaurants were also the target of tear gas.
Numbers of demonstrators in Tunalı Hilmi Street quickly increased as information of the police crackdown circulated in social media.

Eventually, around midnight, what the middle-aged former activists saw were young people who built barricades on Tunalı Avenue, building the very first barricade of their lives. The barricade was built against the police who suggested at the Kızılay Square earlier in the day, while speaking through a loud-speaker right after the sudden and heavy crackdown: “Everything is for you friends, everything is for you.”