Four years later, Gezi Park protests fail to attract crowds

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 31.05.2017 23:24
Updated 31.05.2017 23:25

Wednesday marked the fourth anniversary of the start of the violent riots in Istanbul's Gezi Park and despite relatively decent weather, few turned out to mark the day that was glorified by terrorist groups. It is unclear whether security barriers set up in the area or riot police being deployed deterred protesters from gathering as they did when riots had first broken out and rioters hurled Molotov cocktails at officers.

A small-scale march was expected when Daily Sabah went to print but, aside from that, the anniversary failed to attract widespread attention, aside for the protesters who took to social media in "remembrance" of the anniversary.

On May 31, 2013, Turkish police intervened in what began as a peaceful protest against the redevelopment of the titular park adjacent to Taksim Square at the heart of Istanbul. What followed were nationwide riots that led to the torching of cars, public property and injuries in a matter of a few days. The riots were the work of terrorist groups the PKK and the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) along with fringe factions linked to them. Portrayed as Arab Spring-style riots in the Western media, protesters garnered support even among moderate critics of the government despite their utter violence. The fate of Gezi Park, where officials had plans to re-build an Ottoman-era building which were thwarted when red tape caused delays in redevelopment plans, are still in limbo. However, for rioters, the protests were a show of force for terrorist groups.

A new investigation launched last year points to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) for fueling the tensions that turned peaceful protests over Gezi Park into violent riots. The city's police chief during the riots was detained amid concerns that the aggressive use of force by police in the Gezi Park protests may have been the product of a plot by Gülenists to foment chaos. The police's role in the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul and other cities was criticized for their use of excessive force. The latest inquiries reveal that FETÖ-linked police officers held key posts during the Gezi Park riots and contributed to the escalation of violence. Ramazan Emekli and Yunus Dolar, two senior police chiefs, are accused of ordering the burning down of tents set up by protesters at Gezi Park, something that provoked rioters toward further violence and targeting police while Yunus Dolar, another police chief, is accused of ordering the rough treatment of protesters and rioters.

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