‘Occupy Galata’ protest held against private cafe in public square
ISTANBUL – Doğan News AgencyA group of 200 people held a picnic in a public square next to Istanbul’s historic Galata Tower on June 21, in protest at the establishment of a private cafe recently opened in the square with the permission of Beyoğlu Municipality.
The new cafe belongs to BELTUR, a company run by Istanbul Municipality, and has drawn reactions from citizens for occupying a public square, which is also a popular spot for tourists.
The Occupy Galata Group released a Facebook message inviting the public to join a picnic around Galata Tower, after the Beyoglu Municipality approved the opening of the cafe.
People began to gather at the square at around 4.00 p.m., claiming the public’s right to use the square. The protesters carried banners reading, “Squares belong to the public, not to capital” and “#ResistGalata.”
The demonstrators sat next to customers sitting at the tables of the cafe.
One protester said the space was being “occupied” by the municipality.
“Squares belong to the public. This is a place where citizens can come, sit and chat anytime. The municipality has opened a café to close the square to the public. We are protecting our spaces against the municipality’s occupation. It is a shame to take over a place where citizens can breathe,” the protester said.
Another said the aim was to “change people’s way of living.”
A brief scuffle erupted between a protester and two other people, according to witnesses. Two people reportedly attacked one of the protesters before being taken away by police, while the protester was slightly injured.