'Standing Man' in Taksim revives protests, sparks similar demonstrations
Hundreds join Gündüz in his silent demonstration in Taksim Square. (Photo: Today's Zaman, Vassil Donev)
A Turkish man named Erdem Gündüz stood silently for six hours, without moving or speaking, in the middle of Taksim Square, the flashpoint of unceasing 22-day protests, in a show of solidarity with Gezi Park protesters.
Facing the Atatürk Cultural Center, a building the government is determined to replace with a modern opera house, Gündüz's protest has provided another, peaceful face of the protests, long accused by the government of being violent. He was eventually joined by about 300 other people who did likewise. Police warned them to disperse because they were “blocking the traffic,” and later escorted them away. The group put up no resistance.
The government set off protests nationwide and drew criticism abroad over a police crackdown that began May 31 against environmentalists and other activists in Taksim Square who were protesting plans to cut down trees and redevelop the adjacent Gezi Park. Thousands have flooded the streets nightly since then, many honking car horns and waving Turkish flags.
Erdoğan, who has held power for 10 years and was re-elected in 2011, mobilized his supporters over the weekend in two huge rallies -- insisting his duty was to keep order, railing against media coverage of the protests and lashing out at unspecified foreigners who he said want to hurt Turkey.
Initially, police tried to interrogate Gündüz based on his “suspicious behavior” but he left the questions unanswered. Police then searched his bag. Ten people, who refused to be moved on by police, were detained.
Gündüz, swiftly dubbed "standing man" on social media in Turkey, inspired similar protests elsewhere in İstanbul as well as in the capital Ankara and the city of İzmir on the Aegean coast.
The silent protests were in stark contrast to demonstrations at the weekend, which saw some of the fiercest clashes so far when police fired teargas and water cannon to clear thousands from Taksim Square.