Istanbul’s Gezi Park on lockdown for third anniversary of protests

Istanbul’s Gezi Park on lockdown for third anniversary of protests

Istanbul’s Gezi Park on lockdown for third anniversary of protests

Turkish anti riot police officers patrol Gezi Park in Istanbul on May 31, 2016 on the third anniversary of Gezi Park protests. AFP photo

Istanbul’s Gezi Park, which was the epicenter of country-wide protests that erupted in 2013, was closed on May 31, the third anniversary of the protests.

Police first erected barricades around the city’s central Taksim Square and the Cumhuriyet Monument. In the afternoon hours, Gezi Park was closed to entry as a part of tight security measures against anyone trying to commemorate the anniversary. Those inside the park were also told to leave.

In addition, anti-riot police and plainclothes officers were deployed around the square, along with riot control vehicles with water cannon known as TOMAs.

Despite attempts to prevent commemorations, however, opposition parties marked the day, which they agreed had left an honorable mark on Turkey’s political history.

“I am indebted to all youth who used their intelligence, rationality and knowledge at Taksim Square,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said in a parliamentary group address yesterday, saying the youth “made a dictator kneel.”

Kılıçdaroğlu said those who participated in the Gezi protests fought a battle for their way of life and led a struggle to ensure freedom for their identities and beliefs.

“Gezi was a splash of freedom. And it was an action that went down in world history in golden letters,” he said. 

The central executive board of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) also released a press statement on Gezi, defining the uprising as a “legitimate, democratic and righteous reaction to the oppressive and authoritarian AKP [Justice and Development Party] mentality.”

The HDP stressed that the causes which led to Gezi remains intact three years after the nationwide demonstrations as access to the park was prohibited yesterday.

The Gezi protests started as a sit-in by a small group of environmental advocates to stop bulldozers from razing the park, one of the few green spaces left in the city’s Taksim neighborhood, to build a shopping mall.

However, it quickly spread across Turkey, as millions of citizens took to the streets in mass demonstrations that shook Turkey throughout the summer of 2013. It later developed into a revolt against what protesters said was the increasing authoritarianism of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Eight protesters were killed during the unrest, while a police officer also died after chasing protesters during the uprising.