“They came out a couple hours after a speech by Erdogan calling on his supporters to mobilise”
I have been following the protests in Izmir since the first day, on May 31. There were two types of policemen: some were wearing helmets and had shields, whereas the others were dressed in civilian clothes and wore baseball caps.It is only on Sunday that I saw a third type appear. They came out in support of the police. I asked a plainclothes officer who they were, but he only said that these men came “from above”. Even if we cannot be completely sure about anything, there are several clues that tie these men to the AKP party.First of all, these men appeared several hours after a speech by Erdogan trying to intimidate protesters, in which he said: “For every 100,000 protesters, I will bring out a million from my party”. Furthermore, they are armed with sticks very similar to the plainclothes police's white batons, except that theirs are longer, heavier, and are occasionally black instead of white. I don’t think they are policemen: the police, whether in civilian clothing or not, are always well dressed and shaven, given their line of work, whereas these men for the most part are not.Men dressed in civilian clothes, armed with black batons, run alongside police after protesters. Video filmed by our Observer.Izmir’s city centre is in part made up of parallel and perpendicular streets. The protesters had chosen to place their barricades at the main intersections. The regular police force intervened with armed vehicles and shot tear gas canisters at the crowd, forcing them to flee into the narrower streets. I then saw these men in civilian clothes run after them. Several protesters told me they were very violently beaten by these men, and were then driven to the police station and locked up for the night.In the streets of Izmir, on Sunday night. Photo by Stratos Moraitis.I haven’t left Izmir since the start of the protests, but I have not been hearing anything about similar civilian groups in other cities. Given that Izmir is governed by a party opposed to the AKP, if these men are indeed linked to the powers that be, it would not be surprising that they would have been shipped here first to suppress protests in the city perceived as being the most rebellious.