The Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office on Tuesday launched an investigation into a banned rally held on Monday in the Turkish capital to mark the 89th anniversary of the Turkish Republic.
Waving Turkish flags and carrying banners portraying the country's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a group of nearly 20,000 people gathered for the rally in front of the first parliament building in defiance of a ban imposed by the Ankara Governor's Office on the grounds that “some groups may seek to incite anarchy in the country.”
The alternative, unofficial celebration was organized by a group of more than 30 civil society organizations led by the Youth Union of Turkey (TGB), known for their ideological proximity to the socialist Workers' Party (İP). The rally, which was also attended by main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and people from some minor leftist parties, highlighted the longstanding division between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and secular opposition groups including the CHP.
Groups arriving in buses from other cities to join the rally were initially stopped by the police at checkpoints around Ankara, but following mediation by some CHP deputies, the buses were allowed into the city. As they had previously announced, the demonstrators, including the CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu and some CHP deputies, wanted to march to Atatürk's mausoleum to pay their respects. Initially, the police did not allow the rally participants to march in that direction, and used tear gas and water cannons to try to break up the demonstration. After about half an hour, however, the police removed the barricades and allowed protestors to continue on to Anıtkabir.
Speaking at the parliamentary group meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on Tuesday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed the CHP leader for attending the banned rally instead of the official celebrations held in Ankara's hippodrome and accused the protestors of terrorizing the city's streets.
“Those celebrating Republic Day at the hippodrome carried nothing other than Turkish flags and posters of Atatürk. We could be together there,” Erdoğan said, calling on the CHP leader to be more sensible and pay respect to the spirit of the republic.
“I hope Turkey will never experience such an incident again,” Erdoğan said referring to the clashes between police and protestors which cast a shadow over the Republic Day celebrations.