The proposed destruction of the historic Emek Theatre has been a long-running controversy in Turkey, where it is seen as another example of the ways in which rapid business expansion is uprooting Istanbul’s cultural heritage.
Yesterday, on April 7, 2013, thousands met in peaceful protest, among them, luminaries of both international and Turkish cinema, including celebrated director, Costa-Gavras. When protesters were refused permission to march to the site of the theatre, however, clashes broke out. The day ended with water cannon, tear gas, and allegations of police brutality.
As required by law, protesters had notified police that the protest would take place, but were prevented by police from marching to the location of the cinema. As an Amnesty statement today notes, “[it] is unclear what legitimate ground could have been used to justify the police’s actions in preventing protesters from marching on the street where the cinema is located.” Attempts by protesters to enter the street were met by tear gas and water cannon. In the clashes which followed, some protesters threw stones at police.
The statement highlights Amnesty’s concern “at reports of police repeatedly beating and kicking protestors” and “calls on the authorities to launch a prompt, independent and impartial investigation both into why the demonstrators were denied permission to proceed with their march and the excessive use of force by police officers.”