The police in Ankara intervened with tear gas and water cannons against labour rights defenders just when Kasım Birtek, Secretary General of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Public Employees (KESK), called on the Ankara Governorship "to end the obstruction of a legal, legitimate and democratic right". The police set up roadblocks on the Ziya Gökalp Avenue in the centre of the capital; clashes occurred between demonstrators and the police on Thursday afternoon (3 February).
The controversial "Bag of Laws" was on the Thursday agenda of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM). Demonstrators tried to pass through the roadblock set up by the riot forces and armed combat cars. The protestors had planned to encircle the parliament building with a chain of people and to make their voices heard. Some groups of demonstrators threw stones at the police. Several protestors were injured. The police made use of tear gas as they had already done against protesting TEKEL workers. Also Çetin Soysal, Member of Parliament of the Republican Peoples Party (CHP), was affected by the tear gas.
Demonstrators shouted slogans such as "Tayyip, take the law and forget about it" or "The capital of the workers' union will be eaten up". Members of the Platform of KESK Branches went on a sit-down strike in front of their branches to express their condemnation for the police terror.
Protests against the "Bag Law" were initiated in mayor cities across the country such as Istanbul and Izmir in the west, Diyarbakır in the south-east and Trabzon on the north-eastern Black Sea coast. People from 81 provinces joined the protest. In the course of the protest march in Ankara on Thursday, the Governorship refused permission to the protstors to form a chain of people around the parliament building, announcing that this would be illegal. KESK Secretary General Birtek condemned the announcement and said, "Neither will the labourers join the bag nor will they give up the struggle for the protection of their rights".
Çerkezoğlu: Extensive security measures
Ali Çerkezoğlu, Secretary General of the Istanbul Medical Chamber, told bianet that rights defenders from the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), KESK, the Turkey Union of Chambers of Architects and Engineers (TMMOB) and The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) gathered in front of their organizations' head offices in the morning. Çerkezoğlu drew attention to extensive security measures.
Keskin: Police announced demonstration to be illegal
Subsequently, the protestors came together on the College Square and started walking down the Ziya Gökalp Avenue heading for the parliament building. Gökhan Keskin, student of the Ankara University Faculty of Communications (Ilef), told bianet that the police had set up roadblocks and announced that 'the demonstration they had joined was not legal' in order to disperse the crowd.
Yet, the roadblock set up by the police created tension. The police used tear gas and water cannons to intervene against the demonstrators.
In line with the Governorship, the Minister of the Interior, Beşir Atalay, pointed to the law that bans demonstrations, marches and meetings around the parliament building. "The unions are using expressions like 'We will encircle the Parliament' which is not included in any official notification. Tolerating this kind of unlawful actions is out of the question".
Closed session in the Parliament
At the same time, the Parliamentary General Assembly held a closed session to accept a proposal submitted by members of the CHP. The session took ten minutes.
The proposal was related to the third section of the "Bag Law" on the "increase of pay for insured and entitled persons". It was submitted by Muharrem İnce as the Deputy Chair of the CHP Parliamentary Group and his colleagues.
"Your attacks cannot stop our rightful struggle"
Many people came together on Istanbul's Taksim Square to voice their protest against the police intervention in Ankara. The protest action was organized by the Platform of Istanbul Branches of KESK. They said that the police state of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) attacked the workers who wanted to voice their most ingenuous democratic demands in Ankara. "The attacks will not be enough to stop our rightful and legitimate struggle", it was said.
About 200 people from KESK, the Students Collective, the Education and Science Workers' Union (Eğitim-Sen), the Community Centres, the Platform for Social Freedom and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) walked down Istiklal Avenue until the Galatasaray Square to express their protest. (AT-EG/EÖ/VK)