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News, June 2013
Turkish Police End Istanbul Taksim Square, Gezi Park Protest
Police intervene at Istanbul's Taksim Square, enter Gezi Park
Huriyat Daily News, June/15/2013
Police intervened once again in Istanbul's Taksim Square using tear
gas and water cannons to quell the protesters an hour after Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ultimatum to evacuate the Gezi Park
The Istanbul Governor’s office said 44 people were injured and none
were in severe conditions. However social media users have reported that
many injured were attended by doctors and volunteers all around the
Turkish police end Istanbul park occupation
CBS News, June 15, 2013
Protests break out in other cities after riot police use tear gas, bulldozers to clear park
Turkish riot police firing tear gas and water cannon took less than half an hour on Saturday to bring to an end an 18-day occupation of an Istanbul park at the centre of the strongest challenge to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's 10-year tenure.
The protests, which began as an environmental sit-in to prevent a development project at Taksim Square's Gezi Park, quickly spread to dozens of cities and spiraled into a broader expression of discontent about what many say is Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian decision-making.
Riot police moved swiftly to clear Istanbul's Taksim Square and neighbouring Gezi Park, tearing down banners and spraying tear gas over protesters' tents. (CNN)
He vehemently denies the charge, pointing to his strong support base which allowed him to win his third consecutive term with 50 per cent of the vote in 2011.
The protests, which left at least four people dead and more than 5,000 injured, dented Erdogan's international reputation and infuriated him with a previously unseen defiance to his rule.
For more than two weeks, protesters had flouted Erdogan's warnings to vacate the area. On Saturday evening, he ran out of patience.
As dusk fell, hundreds of white-helmeted riot police swept through Taksim Square and Gezi Park, firing canisters of the acrid, stinging gas as they stormed through the tents set up throughout the park.
Thousands of peaceful protesters, choking on the fumes and stumbling among the tents, put up no physical resistance, even as plain-clothes police manhandled many to drive them from the park.
Many ran into nearby hotels for shelter. A stand-off developed at one hotel on the edge of the park, where police opened up with water cannon against protesters and journalists outside before throwing tear gas at the entrance, filing the lobby with white smoke.
Some protesters ran off into nearby streets, setting up makeshift barricades and running from water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets into the early hours of Sunday. Plumes of white tear gas rose from the streets.
Ambulances ferried the injured to hospitals as police set up cordons and roadblocks around the park, preventing anyone from getting close.
'This crackdown has to stop'
Tayfun Kahraman, a member of Taksim Solidarity, an umbrella group of protest movements, said an untold number of people in the park had been injured — some from rubber bullets.
"Let them keep the park, we don't care anymore. Let it all be theirs. This crackdown has to stop. The people are in a terrible state," he told The Associated Press by phone.
Istanbul governor's office said at least 44 people were taken to hospitals for treatment. None of them were in serious condition, it said in a statement. Taksim Solidarity, on its Web site, called the incursion "atrocious" and counted hundreds of injured — which it called a provisional estimate — as well as an undetermined number of arrests.
The biggest protest Turkey has seen in recent years raged on Wednesday, as protesters continue their condemnation of the government. Here, tear gas surrounds a protester holding a Turkish flag adorned with a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern, secular Turkey. (
A woman wearing a red cotton summer dress, necklace and white bag who was teargassed by a police officer in Tasksim Park on May 28 has become a symbol for the violent anti-government demonstrations in Istanbul, with images of her being used on posters and in social media.
Huseyin Celik, the spokesman for Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, told NTV that the sit-in had to end.
"They had made their voice heard ... Our government could not have allowed such an occupation to go on until the end," he said.
As the tear gas settled, bulldozers moved into the park, scooping up debris and loading it into trucks. Crews of workmen in fluorescent yellow vests and plain-clothes police went through the abandoned belongings, opening bags and searching their contents before tearing down the tents, food centres and library the protesters had set up in what had become a bustling tent city.
Protests erupt in other cities
As news of the raid broke, demonstrations erupted in other cities. At least 3,000 people swarmed into John F. Kennedy street in central Ankara, where opposition party legislators sat down at the front of the crowd facing the riot police — not far from Parliament. In Izmir, thousands converged at a seafront square.
It was a violent police raid on May 31 against a small sit-in in Gezi Park that sparked the initial outrage and spiraled into a much broader protest. While those in the park have now fled, it was unclear whether their fervour had been doused, whether they would take their movement to other places, or try to return to the park at a later time.
Saturday's raid came less than two hours after Erdogan threatened protesters in a boisterous speech in Sincan, an Ankara suburb that is a stronghold of his party.
"I say this very clearly: either Taksim Square is cleared, or if it isn't cleared then the security forces of this country will know how to clear it," he told tens of thousands of supporters at a political rally.
A second pro-government rally is planned in Istanbul Sunday. Erdogan has said the rallies were not designed as "an alternative" to the demonstrations at Gezi Park, but part of early campaigning for local elections next March — though he used the occasion to both criticize the protesters and praise his supporters.
"You are here, and you are spoiling the treacherous plot, the treacherous attack!" he told the cheering crowd, insisting unspecified groups both inside and outside Turkey had conspired to mount the protests — and that he had the documents to prove it.
The crowd chanted in response: "Stand straight, don't bow, the people are with you!"
In his speech, he focused on some protesters who have clashed with police — at times by throwing stones and firebombs.
"There is no breaking and burning here, we are people of love," Erdogan said. "If people want to see the real Turkey, they should come here to Sincan."
According to the government's redevelopment plan for Taksim Square that caused the sit-in, the park would be replaced with a replica Ottoman-era barracks. Under initial plans, the construction would have housed a shopping mall, though that has since been amended to the possibility of an opera house, a theatre and a museum with cafes.
On Friday, Erdogan offered to defer to a court ruling on the legality of the government's contested park redevelopment plan, and floated the possibility of a referendum on it. The protesters felt those concessions were not enough, however, and vowed to press on. But that was before the raid ousted them.
"Our leaders, who promised that Gezi Park would remain a park until the court's ruling, have turned Gezi Park, Istanbul and our country into a battlefield," Taksim Solidarity said.
Turkish police clear Istanbul park after PM's warning
Mehdi Chebil / FRANCE24
June 15, 2013
By News Wires (text)
Turkish riot police stormed a central Istanbul park on Saturday firing tear gas and water cannon to evict hundreds of anti-government protesters, hours after an ultimatum from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
Lines of police backed by armoured vehicles sealed off Taksim Square in the centre of the city as officers stormed the adjoining Gezi Park, where protesters had been camped in a ramshackle settlement of tents.
Erdogan had warned hours earlier that security forces would clear the square, the centre of more than two weeks of fierce anti-government protests which spread to cities across the country, unless the demonstrators withdrew before a ruling party rally in Istanbul on Sunday.
“We have our Istanbul rally tomorrow. I say it clearly: Taksim Square must be evacuated, otherwise this country’s security forces know how to evacuate it,” he told tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters at a rally in Ankara.
Panicked protesters fled into an upscale hotel at the back of the park, several of them vomiting, as clouds of tear gas and blasts from what witnesses said were percussion bombs - designed to create confusion rather than injure - engulfed the park.
Residents in surrounding neighbourhoods took to their balconies or leaned out of windows banging pots and pans, their clatter rising above the wail of ambulance sirens, while car drivers sounded their horns in support of the protesters.
Several people were brought out of the park on stretchers to waiting ambulances, while families with young children fled into side streets from a main shopping street leading to the square.
A similar police crackdown on peaceful campaigners in Gezi Park two weeks ago provoked an unprecedented wave of protest against Erdogan, drawing in secularists, nationalists, professionals, trade unionists and students who took to the streets in protest at what they see as his autocratic style.
The unrest, in which police fired tear gas and water cannon at stone-throwing protesters night after night in cities including Istanbul and Ankara, left four people dead and about 5,000 injured, according to the Turkish Medical Association.
The protesters, who oppose government plans to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks on Gezi Park, had defied repeated calls to leave but had started to reduce their presence in the park after meetings with Erdogan and the local authorities.
“This is unbelievable. They had already taken out political banners and were reducing to a symbolic presence in the park,” Koray Caliskan, a political scientist at Bosphorus University told Reuters from the edge of Gezi Park.
Taken by surprise
Erdogan told protesters on Thursday that he would put the building plans on hold until a court rules on them. It was a softer stance, after two weeks in which he called protesters “riff-raff” and said the plans would go ahead regardless.
But at the first of two rallies this weekend by his ruling AK Party, he reverted to a defiant tone, telling tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters on the outskirts of Ankara that he would crush his opponents at elections next year.
He called for unity among Turks and accused foreign forces, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), international media and market speculators of stoking unrest and trying to undermine the economy.
The police intervention so soon after Erdogan spoke took many by surprise on a busy Saturday night around Taksim, one of Istanbul’s main social hubs, not least after President Abdullah Gul, who has struck a more conciliatory tone than Erdogan, said earlier on Saturday that talks were progressing well.
"The fact that negotiation and dialogue channels are open is a sign of democratic maturity ... I believe this process will have good results. From now on, everybody should return home," Gul had said on his Twitter account.
What began as a campaign by environmentalists to save what they say is one of central Istanbul’s few remaining green spaces spiralled into the most serious show of defiance against Erdogan and his AK Party of his decade in power.
Erdogan has said the AK Party rallies in Ankara and Istanbul are meant to kick off campaigning for local elections next year and not related to the protests, but they are widely seen as a show of strength in the face of the demonstrations.
“I’ve come here for one reason: to support Tayyip, to support AKP. What is happening in Taksim is just shameful. It’s being carried out by marginal groups, you’ve seen the PKK (Kurdish) flags up there,” said Menderes Kan, 46.
Erdogan has long been Turkey’s most popular politician, his AK Party winning three successive election victories, each time with a larger share of the vote, but his critics complain of increasing authoritarianism.
“At the beginning I felt sympathy towards those in Gezi Park and I thought our prime minister’s tone was too harsh. But now the protests there have turned into something else,” said Sumeyye Erdogmus, a 22-year-old nurse.
“Nothing can justify behaviour like cursing the prime minister’s mother and burning buses. This is anarchy, and today we are here to show that our prime minister is not alone.”
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