Citizens march near Gezi Park for five-year anniversary of protests

Large crowds have gathered in central Istanbul to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the protests that swept across the nation in 2013 from a run-down park near Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

Environmentalists staged demonstrations and set up tents in Gezi Park in May, 2013 to protect one of the last green areas in the city centre from a development project that aimed to construct a shopping mall in its place.  

After days of harsh police interventions were captured on social media, thousands of locals from Istanbul turned out to show their support for the cause on May 31, and the increasingly brutal police tactics to disperse the crowds led to protests spreading like wildfire around the country.

Protesters occupied Gezi Park for almost two weeks and succeeded in reversing plans for its demolition, and in spite of deaths and injuries of protesters and the lack of success in effecting broader political change, the exuberant and creative spirit of the protests is still remembered fondly by many who took part.

Large groups took to the streets on Thursday to commemorate that spirit in Beyoğlu, a downtown area of Istanbul adjacent to Taksim Square and the park.

The march, organised by groups including the Taksim Solidarity platform and Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, set off down İstıklal Boulevard, with many holding placards bearing the images of those who were killed during the protests.

These included Ali İsmail Korkmaz, a 19-year-old fatally beaten in the city of Eskişehir; Ahmet Atakan, who fell to his death in the southern Turkish city of Antakya; Ethem Sarısülük; who was shot dead by police in Ankara; Hasan Ferit, who was fatally shot during protests in the Istanbul suburb of Maltepe; and Berkin Elvan, a boy who died at the age of 15 after being shot in the head with a police tear gas canister.

The mothers of these five were present at the demonstration on Thursday alongside officials from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and representatives from DİSK, one of Turkey’s main trade union confederations.

 

Footage of the demonstration shared on social media shows a heavy police presence blocking off the top of İstıklal, though no intervention was reported at the time of writing. Gezi Park has reportedly been closed since last night.

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