Taksim Solidarity Platform called on protesters to get together at Taksim on Saturday 6th June at 19.00 to reclaim the Gezi Park. The statement reads, “We are gathering to give the park back to its true owners, the public. We have not given up on our demands or our acquisitions. To commemorate those that we lost, to remind all of our demands and to remind of the ongoing violence in Turkey, with the legal warrant of the courts in hand, we are meeting at Taksim.”
Just to remind, the park was closed following the forceful entry of the police into Gezi Park on the 15th June. Ever since, the park has been redesigned and replanted and has been kept under lockdown 24/7 by police presence. A water fight was also organised on Taksim Square at 6.ooPM for the same day.
Around midday today, Istanbul Mayor Mutlu made an announcement where he stated that the park would be opened to the public tomorrow. In response to questions about the protest planned for today, he said that they would not allow for a protest to go forward. Indeed they haven’t. In defense of his judgement, Mutlu said “there has been no application for a protest for today by the organisers of the protest to the Mayor’s office. If there is no official application, there is no protest”.
On this note Article 34 of the Turkish Constitution (Right to Hold Meetings and Demonstration Marches) states that:
“1) Everyone has the right to hold unarmed and peaceful meetings and demonstration marches without prior permission
(2) The right to hold meetings and demonstration marches shall only be restricted by law on the grounds of national security, and public order, or prevention of crime commitment, public health and public morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
(3) The formalities, conditions, and procedures governing the exercise of the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches shall be prescribed by law.”
Although this third section of the article refers to prescriptions by law (which is the 2911th law), this law is intended as a notice, an intention of protest to be made, not asked in permission: The second part already limits the situations under which a protest will/not be allowed. Unfortunately, the current Law on Demonstrations and Public Meetings (Law 2911) is a product of the military regime that ensued after the 1980 military coup and is severely restrictive on freedoms and rights. If anything, this means that the AKP are relying on the military regime’s apparatuses of control to dictate its own will over the public, making them just as bad as the tutelary regimes that they profess to replace.
In short, Vali Mutlu has overridden the constitution by stating that protesters are not allowed to protest in Taksim today. I personally read any situation in which the constitution is overridden as a state of emergency. If we happen to be in a state of emergency, then it should be stated as such.
Meanwhile, two demonstrations in support of Morsi are currently ongoing in Istanbul. My personal belief is that the removal of the Muslim Broterhood by the Military is anti-democratic. However, the AKP’s promotion of a given agenda in Egypt and its suppression of dissenting voices domestically is shameful.
In summary, the police are using tear gas and water cannons on protesters in Taksim. People have been sandwiched by police forces on Istiklal Street (Taksim Highstreet) and have been forced to flee into winding side alleys where the reports over the past month have shown that most of the injuries take place, hidden from gazing eyes. Second, the police have been documented by many as not wearing ID numbers on their helmets, making them even more unaccountable.
Most importantly, a group of counter-protesters (AKP youth or otherwise) or undercover police (unlikely) have been video taped attacking the protesters with blades where the police are also filmed as witnessing such acts and turning a blind eye. Please watch the following footages.
Unfortunately, the authorities are unlikely to investigate the footages I have posted or many similar events that have been taking place these days. They are likely to arrest more protesters for disturbing the order and for being terrorists. We are likely to see preferential treatment between different groups and rights each groups possess based on normative factors, highlighting the lack of a common rule of law for all.
Update (11.22 Turkish Time * 9.22 GMT): – Confirmed reports state that along with protesters, numerous journalists have also been injured. 3 were shot with rubber bullets, and another 4 were beaten with police batons. (Cumhuriyet Newspaper) Photo journalist Yunus Dalgıç (Milliyet) was thrown infront of a TOMA vehicle and was injured in the process although he stated he was a journalist and showed his ID.
– Large numbers still being detained in Taksim tonight.
Update (7 July): Istanbul Bar Association has confirmed a total of 59 arrest last night in response to the protest in Taksim. 2 of the arrested are journalists who work for Aydınlık newspaper.