Police blocked a protest by the Confederation of Public Employees Trade Union (KESK) in northern Zonguldak to condemn comments by Turkey’s top religious authority Ali Erbaş.
Comments by Erbaş have been the source of controversy nationwide, as the top religious authority essentially “damned” the country’s founding father during his sermon at the first mass prayer held at Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia on July 24.
Erbaş said in his sermon that anyone who “infringes upon” the Hagia Sophia, a legacy of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror would be cursed, interpreted by many as a reference to founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s conversion of the space into a museum.
Police barred members of KESK from making a press statement about Erbaş’ comments on the grounds that it would violate safe distancing regulations, causing a brief brawl between the crowd and officers.
KESK’s Zonguldak offices urged Erbaş to resign in the press statement read at the union’s local headquarters.