The midday sun was roasting, their limbs were aching, and the protesters, from Turkey’s largest opposition party, still had 125 miles to march before Istanbul, their destination. The road had been hard: One elderly protester died of cardiac arrest and another was hospitalized with heart spasms.

But spirits were soaring as they walked through Duzce last week, holding banners that said “justice” to protest a spate of government arrests. A march that had seemed likely to fizzle or be stopped by the authorities had instead swelled in size since it left Ankara, the capital.

Pictures of the growing crowds were passed around on social media, attracting newcomers. The spectacle was provoking an increasingly venomous response from officials — including charges of treason — a sure sign the protest had touched a nerve, the organizers said.

The momentum seemed like a breakthrough for Turkey’s cowed mainstream opposition as its supporters resorted to more-creative and desperate tactics to meet what they say is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s stranglehold over the state’s institutions such as parliament and the courts.


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