In central Antalya this Sunday, some two hundred students marched against Barack Obama - who they called “the biggest terrorist in the world.”
When asked why she believed Obama was a terrorist, one demonstrator said “the United States, led by Barack Obama conducted so many operations in Syria, Iraq and in other places in the Middle East. And we define those operations to be terror acts.”
The protest was called by the “Turkish Youth Union” movement which announced some 1,500 people would join the march. In the end, there were maybe 200.
If you were a journalist, these would be your “dream protesters:” well rehearsed and loud; media friendly and English speakers; organised; and peaceful.
They chanted “Yankee go home” and had cute little Obama dolls dressed as Uncle Sam.
They insisted this demonstration was not against the G20 Summit, whose 10th edition is being held in the city, but exclusively directed at the United States and its President, Barack Obama.
But it was almost too good to be true. Too organised. Too clean.
The 200 students were encircled by metal barriers and had to go through a security check to enter the square. Bags were searched, nothings suspicious was allowed in.
Police - which outnumbered the protesters by a few hundred - accompanied the march and stayed put until the crowds dispersed, an hour later.
A second demonstration was called for later in the day.
Then, less than 50 demonstrators showed up at Republic Square. And 1,000 police officers were deployed. Fifty versus one thousand.
When I asked the chief of the police why there were so many officers, he explained they were there to "protect demonstrators and passers-by alike" against the threat of terrorism.
“Of course they can protest” the officer who would not give me his name but was clearly the one in charge said, “it is their democratic right.”
Protesting in Antalya these days is a democratic right but only if you do it within designated areas and with authorisation.
Antalya’s Governor, Muammer Turker, had said all peaceful demonstrations would be allowed.
But made sure no one could get even close to world leaders and heads of state meeting in a virtually locked down area 50 km away.
Author: Anelise Borges