Erdoğan starts controversy over police barricades in rally
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has kicked off a controversy over who ordered the lifting of police barricades put up to prevent protesters from marching in an unsanctioned rally on Monday to mark the 89th anniversary of the Turkish Republic, Todayszaman reported.
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 group wanted to march to Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of the country's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, to pay their respects. Initially, police did not allow 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, police removed the barricades and allowed protesters to continue on to Anıtkabir.
The Vatan daily reported on Tuesday that President Abdullah Gül was the one who asked the Ankara governor to remove the barricades, easing the tension between the demonstrators and police and averting further possible clashes.
Speaking at Esenboğa Airport in Ankara before his flight to the German capital, Erdoğan said police officers had acted in a compromising manner with the demonstrators and he had spoken with the governor about the issue. Downplaying the reports, he said he did not believe that Gül had ordered the removal of the barricades.
"There has never been a double-headed administration in this country," Erdoğan said, adding that he favors a presidential system, which he says will be helpful in avoiding other similar situations. "Besides this," Erdoğan said, "everyone knows his job" as prime minister and president.
Erdoğan accused the police of not taking the issue of the rally seriously and of compromising with the demonstrators.