Solidarity demonstration outside King’s for Istanbul unrest

This story really allowed me to bring a very local Cambridge angle to an international story of huge proportions in Turkey, which I relished. I used a Turkish friend to gain some extra background on the case, as well as using Cambridge’s Turkish Society to find out more. I liaised with a Varsity colleague to get some pictures of the protest, as I was unavailable at the time to attend the event.

Credit: Martha Elwell

Protesters stood outside King’s Chapel this afternoon with placards and messages of support for the many thousands of Turks in Istanbul who have been involved in several days of unrest, which has been met with tear gas and water cannons from the police. The country’s prime minister has described the scenes as “extremists running wild”.

One placard read: ‘Istanbul is not alone’, another showing its solidarity, ‘Cambridge stands with you’. Police have now pulled out of Taksim Square, the scene of the largest anti-government protest in years.

Another protest is planned in Cambridge for tomorrow in Christ’s Piece, which is calling for those attending “to show solidarity with the protesters in Istanbul who are withholding against appalling police brutality.”

Public discontent was sparked following plans to redevelop Gezi Park, which protesters say is one of few green spaces remaining in Turkey’s largest city, and that the government is ignoring their calls for it to be saved.

‘No passage to dictatorship’, reads one sign. Credit: Martha Elwell.

The demonstration at Taksim’s Gezi Park started late on Monday after trees were torn up to make way for redevelopment to build an Ottoman era military barracks and a shopping centre. Initially a calm sit-in protest, clashes became more violent in the past 48 hours. The issue has quickly escalated to gain national and international coverage from what was previously one of only local importance. Yet this is an issue which has angered some over the perceived “Islamisation” of Turkey.

Dozens have been injured in the clashes. The country’s prime minister,  Tayyip Erdogan, conceded that the police had been too heavy-handed, but insisted that plans to redevelop the park will still go ahead.

He called for an immediate end to the protests, yet the removal of barracades by the police then welcomed tens of thousands to gather in Taksim Square. Mr Erdogan also said order would be restored “to ensure the safety of people and their property”.

Crowds in Istanbul chanted “unite against fascism” and “government resign”. At least one police officer fired his gun into the air.

Protests have spread to other Turkish cities, including the capital Ankara, where thousands again gathered on Saturday.

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