Demonstrators protesting HDP rally clash with police in eastern Turkey

Clashes erupted in Turkeyand’s eastern city of Erzurum on Thursday after protesters attempted to disrupt an election campaign rally by the pro-Kurdish Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the city center. At least four HDP supporters were injured during the violent protests.
The tension in Erzurum comes just days before a parliamentary election slated for June 7 and follows the killing of the driver of a HDP campaign bus in the neighboring province of BingandOl on Wednesday.

The police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters, who started a march towards the rally venue at 10 a.m. Some protesters pushed down barriers before police forced them back with water cannon just meters from the rally. The HDP rally was held from 1 p.m. in Erzurumand’s istasyon Square as scheduled.
Gendarmerie units were also dispatched to the scene after the police requested reinforcements to stop the crowd, who were waving Turkish flags and chanting and”this is Erzurum, there is no escape from here,and” and protect about 2,000 HDP supporters who arrived at the square to attend the rally.

A police officer was wounded during confrontation with protesters. Protesters attempted to block the way of an ambulance dispatched to retrieve the wounded officer, leading to clashes with the police that also left some of the protesters injured.
An HDP campaign minibus headed to the rally venue was attacked by protesters throwing stones. The minibus steered off the road and slammed into a metal pole. While it was being towed away by a police truck, protesters set the vehicle on fire. The driver wounded in the attack was hospitalized. Some reports said the driver was in the vehicle when it was set ablaze and that he sustained burns before fleeing.
The Dogan news agency said there were smaller crowds gathering in other parts of the Erzurum city center and that the police were taking measures to prevent them from marching to istasyon Square.

Addressing the rally, HDP Co-Chairman Selahattin Demirtai warned against provocations in the run up to the election. andquotThere are only three days left. We will continue to work with patience, without allowing provocations [to succeed],andquot he told the gathered supporters.
In an apparent effort to prevent an encounter with anti-HDP protesters, Demirtai also called on the supporters to take designated routes when leaving the rally venue.

Attacks on the HDP supporters continued, however, after the event ended. A group of HDP supporters leaving the rally was attacked by a crowd of protesters wielding clubs and throwing stones near the venue. Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the mob.
Three people were injured in a separate incident when their car was stoned by a group of protesters as their car was leaving Erzurum after the rally.
The Dogan agency reported that a group also attempted to march to a predominantly Kurdish neighborhood in Erzurum which also hosts the HDPand’s provincial headquarters but were stopped by the police.

Unidentified assailants fired on a HDP campaign minibus in BingandOl provinceand’s Karliova district, about 100 kilometers to the south of Erzurum, late on Wednesday. The driver of the bus was found dead 200 meters ahead of the vehicle, according to the Dogan news agency. He was shot several times.
The HDP has been attacked several times in the run-up to the election. Six people were wounded in coordinated bomb attacks on two party offices in the southern provinces of Adana and Mersin in May, while party officials reported dozens of less severe assaults on HDP offices.
The HDP is hoping to pass a 10-percent election threshold to enter Parliament. If it does, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is likely to lose a parliamentary majority strong enough to press for constitutional amendments that will clear the way for a transition from the current parliamentary system to the presidential one coveted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

h2MHP denies involvement in incidenth2
Erzurum provincial chairman of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Ahmet Anatepe, denied any party role in the violent protests.
Erzurum is a stronghold of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which won 69 percent of the votes in the previous parliamentary election in 2011. The MHP is the second biggest party in Erzurum, and secured 13 percent of the last vote. Some protesters were seen on Thursday raising a huge MHP flag.
andquotThis has nothing to do with us,andquot Anatepe said, describing the protests as the andquotreaction of the people of Erzurum.andquot andquotI do not approve of these incidents,andquot he said.
Anatepe called for vigilance in the face of possible provocative actions at a news conference earlier this week. andquotWe should be alert towards any kind of provocative attempts, common sense and restraint should always be preserved,andquot he said then.
The MHP is a strong opponent of the process of secret talks between state officials and the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workersand’ Party (PKK), talks which were initiated in 2012 by the AK Party government.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman