VIDEO: Huge Crowds Attend ‘Democracy Vigil’ in Turkey’s Istanbul

Sun Aug 7, 2016 20:21:05

Thousands of people gathered in Istanbul Sunday to support Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, marking the end of three weeks of similar demonstrations in the wake of the failed coup of July 15.

The mass Democracy and Martyrs demonstration, which had been organized by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), began at Yenikapi square on the shores of the Marmara Sea at 1400 GMT, as it was scheduled, but the area was already a sea of red and white Turkish flags less than two hours before the official beginning of the rally.

Posters of Erdogan and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, were also seen hung around the square. Some 15,000 police were in charge of ensuring the security of the event.

People from across the Anatolian country were urged, through media, to attend the demonstration. Some media predicted that about 3.5 million people could be participating.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım earlier said the Sunday demonstration would be a “supra-party” gathering, in which no partisan credos and flags would be allowed in order to promote national unity. “The spirit of one nation, one flag, one homeland and one state will prevail throughout the rally,” he said, warning against any provocation.

The Turkish president also invited opposition leaders to attend the demonstration and deliver individual speeches to the crowd, except for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the parliament’s largest pro-Kurdish party.

“I have an offer; let’s make a democracy meeting in Yenikapi on August 7. Let’s be there with the Armed Forces’ command, artists and sportswomen and men who contributed to the process [after the coup plot]. Let the nation be there. Let’s invite all of the leaders of all the political parties,” Erdogan told Turkish broadcaster ATV on July 30.

“Let’s be there with the leaders and give our message to all of Turkey from there altogether. It’s very, very important for the normalization process to speed up for our country,” Erdogan stated.

Late on July 15, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it was in control of the country and that the government was no more in charge. The coup attempt was gradually suppressed and over 60,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service and education have so far been sacked, dismissed or detained over allegations of involvement in the putsch and their links to the US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan has repeatedly accused Gulen of orchestrating the abortive coup.

Gulen, an outspoken opponent of Erdogan living in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, has firmly denied the allegations against him. He argues that the move could have been orchestrated by the government to purge its opponents.

Earlier, Erdogan ordered the Sunday demonstration to be broadcast live via giant screens nationwide, with one particularly due to be installed in Pennsylvania, where Gulen resides.

“A mega board will be put up in one more place. Do you know where?” he asked a crowd, adding, “In Pennsylvania. The message will be delivered.”

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