Anniversary of Gezi Park protests

CNN International correspondent Ivan Watson was held momentarily on Saturday, May 31, 2014, for failing to present his passport

CNN International correspondent Ivan Watson was held momentarily on Saturday, May 31, 2014, for failing to present his passport

ISTANBUL – The Kadikoy district of Istanbul on the Asian shore is preparing for demonstrations for the anniversary of the Gezi Park protests of 2013.

The day started peacefully in Kadikoy. Two key points in Kadikoy, the ferry landing and the main square were quite calm. Although some police and riot control vehicles (TOMA) were present around the square, there were no crowds in the district at 11am.

Meanwhile, around 300 people gathered in Istanbul on Saturday morning in Nurtepe Cemevi, an Alevi prayer house, to remember and pray for 64-year old Elif Cermik, who died on early Friday morning due to a heart attack which her doctors claim was triggered by tear gas fired by police during a rally in December.

Cermik had been in coma for 159 days after attending a protest on December 22, 2013, to denounce mega-projects in Istanbul, including the deforestation of the northern parts of the city for the construction of the third bridge and the third airport. During the protest, she was struck with teargas and later fell into a coma. Cermik was buried in Kilyos cemetery in the Sariyer district in northern Istanbul.  

Taksim Square will be the focal point for today's protests, which remember the Gezi park protests erupted on May 31, 2013 and saw thousands of anti-government demonstrators clash with police for weeks across the country. 

Istanbul's police department sent 7,500 police and 50 riot control vehicles (TOMA) to Taksim district alone on Saturday morning. Istanbul's police department said they won't let any crowds gather around Taksim square, and Istanbul governor Avni Mutlu warned that “no disturbances will be allowed.”

Turkish police forces closed the entrance to Gezi Park, the scene of the last summer’ nation-wide protests, after Taksim Solidarity, an umbrella group of protest movements involved with protests in 2013, announced their intention to gather at Taksim Square to remember the protesters who lost their lives, and repeat their calls for “healthy urbanization and a livable city.”

On Wednesday, Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu warned already that no demonstrations would be allowed near Taksim Square. Security forces increased security measures at Taksim Square, along Istiklal Street and the side streets in the Beyoglu district.

In total, around 25,000 police officers are on duty today in the districts Taksim, Besiktas, Dolmabahce, Sisli and Okmeydani. Some will be on shift later in the evening, when violence is expected as protesters are expected around 7pm in Taksim square.

The Gezi Park protests began as a small environmental demonstration on May 31, 2013, and mushroomed into nationwide anti-government demonstrations. The protests erupted in May after the government moved to implement a redevelopment plan for nearby Taksim Square which reportedly included replacing part of Gezi park with a mall. 

Besiktas, located on the European shore of the Bosphorus, hosted peaceful protests in the morning. Dozens of people gathered in Barbaros square to shout "We do not end with death," and carried placards with the names of those who died during the 2013 Gezi park protests. 

Protesters told Anadolu Agency of their intentions and hopes for the day. "I am afraid of going to Taksim alone, there are lots of police everywhere. I don't understand why they can't understand that Taksim belongs to all of us," 42-year old Selma, a member of the NGO Patriots' Platform, told AA. 

One protester, 60-year old Makbule, said "We can solve all our problems in a peaceful way. There is no need for violence." 

Taksim Solidarity, an umbrella group of protest movements involved with 2013’s Gezi Park protests, said on Tuesday in a press conference held in Istanbul that they would be at squares across Turkey on May 31, one year after the Gezi Park protests, but added that they are “not calling for demonstrations.”

"We will be at the squares in order to remind everyone that we have not abandoned our demands and gains to free our squares, parks, streets and lives," said Mucella Yapici, a spokesperson for Taksim Solidarity.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency