Demonstrations were held all across Turkey this year for International Worker’s Day on May 1, including in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city. Demonstrations took an unexpected turn however when a 25-person group identifying themselves as anarchists began to strip at the entrance of the demonstration area, protesting the failure of police to provide proper security at previous marches.
In the video recording of the event, the group is first shown to be running towards the police-gated entrance yelling and holding banners. The group then stops at the gates and retreats backwards, at which point, to everyone’s bewilderment, the men and women protesters begin to strip off their clothes.
In a statement released after the demonstration, the protesters stated that they had stripped to avoid having their bodies patted down by the police at the gated entrance of the demonstration area:
“As a group of anti-authoritarians, animal liberationists and anarchists, we came together for May First and took off our clothes at the entrance of the area as a reflex against the police body searches, so that we could enter the area without being patted down. As opposed to the news circulating about us in the media, we requested from the organization committee that we could not receive a pat down search by the police, but they rejected our proposal for security reasons.”
Indeed, the group was allowed to enter the demonstration area without police searches after stripping. However, the protesters also indicated that their demonstration was intended to draw attention to the inadequate security measures taken by Turkish police in previous political gatherings, such as the October 2015 Ankara bombing which claimed the lives of over 100 civilians:
“We witnessed the incompetence of police security at the Ankara, Amed, and Suruç bombings, so we believe that the police are unable to ensure our safety. This was the underlying reason for our demonstration.”
The reactions of the public to the stripping protest were varied, with most observers expressing criticisms of the protest as bad taste. In one widely shared twitter post, Twitter user Davut Temur shared a picture of the stripping protestors with the caption “Secularists, don’t try to teach your kids manners, because they will probably just end up like you. Just focus on learning manners yourself.” The post seems to associate the Izmir anarchist youth with the secularist, Kemalist Republican People’s Party (CHP), which has historically enjoyed a stronghold in the city of Izmir.
However, the story also made considerable rounds in the twittersphere among anarchist and leftist circles, even making its way into international circles. As for the demonstrators themselves, they resisted the efforts of their critics to write them off simply as a group of crazy teenagers:
“At the demonstration, we did not only strip off our clothes, but also the host of ethnic, religious, sexual, and biological identities the system has imposed on us. The attempts of the media at large to paint us a bunch of brain damaged youths has pushed us to issue this statement.”
Following the demonstration, the Izmir Police Commissioner Celal Uzunkaya indicated that the demonstrators are currently under investigation for public indecency: “We are in the process of identifying the individuals involved in the protest from images taken from the event. Each individual will be investigated according to both criminal and misdemeanor law.”
The anarchists though, seem more or less unfazed by the pending police investigations of the demonstrations:
“We find it unethical that our friends are being exposed and targeted through images taken from the event. But our attitude will not change in the slightest. Police, Get your hands off my body!”