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Police brutality targeting high school students sparks protests in İstanbul

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Residents of İstanbul’s Kadıköy district gathered in protest outside a police station late Friday night after law enforcement officers beat and detained students demonstrating against the Turkish education system earlier in the day, while a large group at the same time attended a rally condemning the police violence held by Republican People’s Party (CHP) presidential candidate Muharrem İnce.

Members of numerous organizations including the Revolutionary High School Students (DEV-LİS), Union of Revolutionary High School Students (DLB), Anarchist Activity high school branch (LAF), Union of High School Students (LÖB) and the Free High School had been protesting on Friday, report card day, in Kadıköy under the slogan, “Report cards are yours, the future is ours,” when police started to take them into custody after a few warnings, according to BBC Turkish service.

After a while video footage showing police using disproportionate force towards some 30 students was circulated on social media. The hashtag #KadıköydeİşkenceVar (there is torture in Kadıköy) featured on Twitter’s TrendingTopics list.

Late in the evening, Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Mahmut Tanal and Barış Yarkadaş and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) parliamentary candidates Ahmet Şık and Veli Saçılık arrived at the police station, monitoring the students’ situation.

After midnight, as Kadıköy residents gathered near the police station to protest the treatment of the students, CHP presidential candidate İnce held a rally in the district.

“On report card day, they beat 17 to 18-year-old children. I am giving a report card to [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan. Will you beat me, too? Let’s have a go at it!” İnce told the crowd.

“Those kids were not members of the CHP,” he said.

Police released the high school students, who were clearly seen to be cut and bruised, at around 3 a.m. Saturday morning.

On Sunday Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD) held a press conference at which medyanhaber.com reporter Hakan Gültürk, who shot some of the video footage showing the police brutality, said police also attacked him.

Çağdaş Onur Ekinci, another victim of the violence, claimed that police were targeting their heads when beating them.

“I saw that they were enjoying my screams while they beat me. If we weren’t a hot topic [on social media], we would have been subjected to more. Maybe we would have been arrested,” Ekinci said.

Amnesty International Turkey branch also issued a statement on Sunday stressing the right to peaceful protest and distributed photos displaying the claims of disproportionate force and ill treatment.

The pro-government media, on the other hand, claimed some of the high school students drew knives on the police. The Star daily published a report likening the incident to the Gezi Park protests of 2013.

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