Erdoğan’s security fleet paralyzes life in eastern province ahead of rally

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has arrived in Turkey’s eastern Van Province for the AKP mayoral candidate’s rally in the city center ahead of the local elections. Life was paralyzed in the city as officers obstructed major avenues to make way for Erdoğan’s security fleet.

Kadir Cesur / Gazete Duvar

Normal life stopped on March 15 in Turkey’s eastern Van province, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrived at the city center to rally for the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) mayoral candidate, ahead of the local elections of March 31. 

The city’s major avenues were closed to traffic to make way for the massive fleet. Police cars and construction machines were used to block off streets. 

Police officers patrol the barricaded avenues ahead of Erdoğan's visit. 

The fleet included one helicopter, 46 police and security vehicles, six ambulances, two buses, two fire trucks, and one Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) vehicle.  

Great security measures were taken in the city. Police officers stationed in surrounding provinces were channeled into Van for the rally, and officers were placed on the rooftops and balconies of many buildings overlooking the fleet's route. 

Public transit routes had to be rearranged for the day, and taxi stands upon the blocked avenues were relocated. Commuters walked to reach their schools and workplaces. 

The billboards and buildings upon Erdoğan’s route were covered with his posters. The waste bins were ripped off from the ground for security purposes.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party representatives stated that their billboards were removed in preparation for Erdoğan’s rally. DEM Party’s predecessor HDP had won the 2019 mayoral elections in the province but was replaced with a government-appointed trustee mayor. 

All pedestrian crossing was stopped in the route ten minutes before the fleet’s passage. Erdoğan saluted the onlookers and distributed toys as a routinized practice. 

DEM Party’s local branch criticized the extreme security measures for the President’s rally. “Today, Van residents woke up to a scene reminiscent of a coup attempt,” stated the party. 

The party disapproved of the practices that “punished the Van population by impeding small businesses, putting students out of school and adults from their work” for AKP head Erdoğan’s election campaign. 

Participants were brought in from outside the province for the AKP meeting, held DEM Party, which proved how much the ruling party has been estranged from the public.

“Van will respond appropriately at the ballot to this administration who does not trust and cannot roam freely among its public,” concluded the statement. 

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)