Several thousands of protesters were on the receiving end of water cannon and tear gas attacks when they gathered to protest a midnight bill adopted this week by Turkey’s Parliament.
The crowds who gathered on Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue were protesting against the bill which gives full authority to the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry – bypassing the Chamber of Architects and Engineers in all urban projects. However, some local shop owners attacked the protesters with batons and chased them into the side streets.
The members of the Chamber of Architects(TMMOB), many of whom were activists and leaders in the Taksim Solidarity Platform which initiated protests against the building over of Gezi Park, were in the demonstrations in Galatasaray Square yesterday evening.
Following the Governor’s Office’s refusal to allow the demonstrators to walk to Taksim Square, police warned them that they would be dispersed by force if they failed to break up the demonstration and leave the area. Most of the crowd then broke up having been chased by police into the side streets.
After scattering, some of the protesters started to regroup on Istiklal Avenue. Water cannon trucks and panzers were also dispatched to the area. Live footage showed riot police using tear gas in the side streets, while reports said that they also fired rubber bullets to protesters.
‘No to crazy projects’
Earlier, a spokesperson for the group slammed the midnight bill, saying the government wanted to “silence” architects and engineers to prevent hurdles in grandiose urban projects. “They don’t want us because we are against [Istanbul’s] third bridge, because we said no to Canal Istanbul,” he said, referring to the massive-scale construction works branded as “crazy projects” by Prime Minister Erdogan.
During his speech, the crowd also chanted “no to the third bridge, no to canal Istanbul, no to crazy projects,” hinting that the demands of the protesters could widen.
The spokesperson also recalled that many members of the Taksim Solidarity Platform and other civil groups were harassed and ill-treated while in custody, including Mucella Yapici, the general secretary of TMMOB’s Istanbul office.
“We won’t surrender,” he said.