Police intervene on İstiklal Avenue against protesters gathering to re-enter Gezi

Police intervene on İstiklal Avenue against protesters gathering to re-enter Gezi

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Police intervene on İstiklal Avenue against protesters gathering to re-enter Gezi

A water cannon truck fired at protesters gathered at the junction of İstiklal Avenue and Taksim Square. AP photo

Police have heavily intervened in the Taksim area with tear gas and water cannon, targeting protesters gathering on İstiklal Avenue ahead of a demonstration and continuing the intervention into the early hours. The pedestrian İstiklal Avenue is one of the main junctions intersecting with Taksim Square, which is adjacent to Gezi Park.

Protesters dispersed as security forces chased them into side streets, once again using intense tear gas. Ambulances were seen entering the area after the intervention. More than 50 protesters were detained by the police, daily Radikal reported.

Metro access to Taksim Square has been interrupted for hours, while riot police officers were booed by the bystanders on İstiklal Avenue. 

Protesters were organizing a "water fight" event in order to peacefully denounce police's repeated crackdowns using water cannons, which contain water mixed with the same chemical substances as tear gas, when security forces intervened.

Following the intervention, the Taksim Solidarity Platform gathered near Taksim Square to serve the notice of the Istanbul 1st Regional Court's June 6 decision, which canceled the controversial Taksim pedestrianization project and the Artillery Barracks project set to replace Gezi Park. The platform argues that the Taksim Square pedestrianization project and the Artillery Barracks project have lost their legal grounds.

The park has been closed to the public since police evicted protesters three weeks ago. Many protesters maintained that the police did not have the legal right to seal off after the court ruling. 

Gürsel Tekin, the deputy head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also joined the protesters and negotiated with the police officers to prevent an intervention. However, police started firing again water cannons just a few minutes after warning the protesters to disperse. Gürsel was reportedly affected by the crackdown.

Footage show assailants with machetes

Riot police also fired tear gas at a restaurant near the renowned Marmara hotel after people showed their disapproval of the police’s actions with applause, private broadcaster CNN Türk reported. 

Meanwhile, amateur video footage showing unidentified people with machetes indiscriminately attacking protesters and bystanders running from the effects of tear gas emerged after yesterday's crackdown. One of the assailants is seen kicking a woman on her back while holding a machete on his hand. 

The footage was recorded in the Talimhane area where a dozen of touristic hotels are located. Two people involved in the attacks with machetes have been detained, Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu said via Twitter following the publication of the footage.

“Our police will continue to do their duty with carefulness against such attacks,” Mutlu wrote, as security forces were criticized for not preventing the machete-wielders.

Taksim demo unlawful: Governor

A few hours earlier, Mutlu had said that the demonstration was not authorized and would result in a police intervention. 

"The Constitution says that anyone can stage a demonstration without giving notification, but the legislation says that applying to the authorities for permission is mandatory. So nobody can say they exercise their constitutional rights. This is unlawful," Mutlu told reporters July 6 regarding the protest that was due to start at 7 p.m.

"I can't allow a demonstration that I haven't permitted in advance, I can't act unlawfully. So we won't allow these gatherings. Our police will warn them. We believe that an significant number will leave the place after these warnings," Mutlu said, only hours announcing via Twitter that Gezi Park would be open to the public tomorrow.

"There are always small groups that seek confrontation with the police," he said.

Gas Man Festival

Kadıköy, on Istanbul’s Asian side, is also set to witness another protest on Sunday. The “Man Made of Tear Gas” Festival is set to take place today in the district, bringing together the “rebellious” crowds and a set of artists scheduled to perform at the event.

The festival flyer states that the form of protesting has changed over time, and that a new form of demonstration “for an independent and democratic Turkey” has turned all parks and streets into festivals “with the demand of freedom.”

The festival is set to host a series of artists, including Bulutsuzluk Özlemi, Kurtalan Ekspres, Cem Adrian and the Boğaziçi University’s Jazz Choir. A fashion show will also be among the festivities.

The anti-government protests that were first sparked by a severe police intervention against a small, peaceful group protesting plans for a mall in Gezi Park received a severe blow when police forces cleared out the park after a days-long occupation by protesters.

Despite this, the movement refused the die down and instead spread to parks nationwide and individual forms of protest erupted around the country.

Security officials are continuing to launch raids in various cities, detaining people over alleged vandalism during the protests.