Twin bombs ripped through protesters just before the beginning of the Labor, Peace and Democracy Rally in front of Ankara’s Train Station, killing at least 97 people and wounding hundreds more. Police were absent before the explosion, but appeared immediately after the attack with a TOMA water cannon, indescriminately firing tear gas at the dead and dying.
Two bombs in quick succession tore through demonstrators gathering in front of Ankara’s Train Station early on 10 October for the planned Labor, Peace and Democracy Rally, killing at least 97 and injuring more than 400 more.
A Turkish Medical Association (TTB) crisis desk announced late in the afternoon of 10 October that 97 people had been killed and 419 injured. Those killed included members of the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the People’s Houses (Halkevleri), the Party of Labor (EMEP) and the Socialist Party of Refoundation (SYKP), among others.
Police initially absent
One explosion occurred inside the HDP cortege, while the other occurred between the HDP and the Confederation of Public Sector Unions (KESK). The twin explosions shot ball bearings into the surrounding crowd while producing a great plume of smoke over the demonstration.
Medical workers from the TTB, the Health and Social Service Workers Union (SES) and Dev Sağlık-İş were able to treat victims before the arrival of ambulances thanks to the quick thinking of the crowd, which avoided a possible stampede.
Ambulances and police raced toward the scene in the wake of the bombings, with officers twice firing gas at the crowd when they arrived with a TOMA, prompting a chorus of boos and chants of “Murderer Erdoğan.”
The police attack both created difficulties for those who were injured in the blast and destroyed evidence.
Many of those who were injured were taken to hospital wrapped in banners, while the capital was inundated by the continual sound of sirens as ambulances — together with private cars and taxis — transported the injured.
The organizing committee soon canceled the remainder of the rally, with demonstrators from outside Ankara being ushered to their buses with a security cordon established by other activists.
Halkevleri create cordon in absence of police
After helping carry the injured, Halkevleri officials created a cordon due to the initial absence of police. After the arrival of lawyers, Halkevleri officials departed from the scene to donate blood in hospitals.
Police, however, failed to prevent railway officials from cleaning up pieces of broken glass after officers assumed the duty of forming a cordon, prompting an objection from lawyers. Police also refused to permit lawyers to enter the scene as they were waiting for the prosecutor.
After the injured had been removed, police began to wander about the area, despite the absence of the prosecutor and while still refusing to permit the entrance of lawyers, leading the latter to accuse officers of hampering the effective collection of evidence.
“If there’s not a single injured police officer in a crowd of 300 but yet the police are firing tear gas five minutes later, then the culprit is the state!” lawyer Mehmet Ümit Erdem said on his Twitter account.
Demonstrators in the area also argued with two people who were alleged to be plainclothes police officers. Angered at the presence of the provocateurs, a number of protesters kicked their vehicle, demanding that they vacate the scene. The move prompted one officer to shout, “The guy’s a Turkish soldier,” before he fired seven bullets into the air. The two provocateur police officers subsequently boarded their vehicle and departed the scene.
Protest against ministers
Demonstrators also protested against the arrival of the interior, justice and health ministers, chanting, “The murderous state will pay” and “Murderer Erdoğan.” One person also successfully struck Interior Minister Selami Altınok on the head with a water bottle, while Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu’s car was hit by protesters. In response, police fired tear gas at the crowd before spiriting away the ministers.
The bodies of the dead were removed at 15.15 following an examination by Ankara’s CSI team.
Ankara’s police chief, who was also at the scene, said “our pain is also great” in a bid to defuse the anger of the public after the massacre and a tear-gassing by police.
The rally’s organizing committee also conducted an examination at the site.
“Those responsible are the president, the prime minister, [Ankara’s] mayor and the police chief,” said Arzu Çerkezoğlu, the general-secretary of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), one of the organizers of the rally. “It’s not about who detonated the bomb; who is the person politically responsible? A different type of message was given with the attacks in Suruç and Cizre, with them saying, ‘If you search for your rights or go onto the street, we will murder you.’ When the president says, ‘The regime has de facto changed,’ this is what he means.”