A Turkish man has staged an eight-hour silent vigil in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the scene of violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters in recent weeks, inspiring hundreds of others to follow his lead.
Erdem Gunduz said he wanted to take a stand against police stopping demonstrations near the square.
He stood silently, facing the Ataturk Cultural Centre which was draped in Turkish flags and a portrait of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, from 6 pm on Monday.
By 2 am on Tuesday, when the police moved in, about 300 people had joined him. Ten people, who refused to be moved on by police, were detained.
Gunduz, swiftly dubbed ‘standing man’ on social media in Turkey, inspiring similar protests elsewhere in Istanbul, as well as in the capital, Ankara, and the city of Izmir on the Aegean coast.
The silent protests were in stark contrast to demonstrations over the weekend, which saw some of the fiercest clashes so far when police fired teargas and water cannons to clear thousands from Taksim Square.
What began in May as a protest by environmentalists upset over plans to build on a park adjoining Taksim Square has grown into a movement against the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, presenting the greatest public challenge to his 10-year leadership.