[The AKP rally in Istanbul drew hundreds of thousands of party supporters, as a police crackdown continued in Istanbul and Ankara. AA photo]
Istanbul, (Hürriyet Daily News):
As clashes continue near Taksim, which was cleared of protesters in a surprise police intervention the day before, Turkish PM Erdoğan addressed his supporters at a park 10 kilometers away
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader addressed hundreds of thousands of people in a massive show of strength in Istanbul Sunday, only half a day after a large-scale police crackdown on protesters in Gezi, a central Istanbul park that is at the heart of the nearly 20-day-long street action across the country.
The AKP meeting in Istanbul’s Kazlıçeşme, not very far from Gezi Park, was a part of the party‘s official launch of the local elections campaign, which is set to be held in March next year.
Party leader and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
himself said at an earlier Ankara
meeting that the “Respect for the National Will” meetings were not a move against the Gezi protests, but rather an expression of popular support for the government.
“Those who wonder about what’s going on in Turkey should better look at Kazlıçeşme, at Istanbul,” Erdoğan told his supporters in Istanbul.
“These hundreds of thousands of people are not the ones who have burned and destroyed; these hundreds of thousands of people are not traitors like those who throw Molotov cocktails at my people. Whatever we do, we’ll remain within the frame of democracy and the rule of law. We have never pushed the limits of legality,” he said.
‘Hide this if you can’
Erdoğan also once again slammed the international media. “If the international media want a picture of Turkey, the picture is here,” he said. “CNN, Reuters, BBC, hide this picture too, and go on with your lies.”
“Turkey is not a country on which international media institutions can conduct operations. Without feeling ashamed they say get ready for the Turkish Spring after the Arab Spring. They do not know that the Turkish Spring occurred on Nov. 3, 2002,” the prime minister added, referring to the date when the AKP was first elected.
“Now, Gezi Parkı has been cleared and handed back to its people. The municipality has cleared the park and renewed it with new flowers. Real environmentalists are at work now. Who is this environmentalist? The AK Party government,” he said.
“I warn once again. They are making calls to unite at Taksim. I call for commonsense. My people: do not fall into this trap,” he added.
“We’ll identify one by one those who have terrorized the streets of our cities. We have all recordings of city surveillance recordings, we’ll trace the media and social media to find those who have provoked incidents,” Erdoğan said.
“I wonder what they these foreigners who came to Taksim Square from all corners of the world were doing. We have seen the same plots in Reyhanlı,” he said.
“One of the lawmakers of the CHP
who entered the Divan Hotel insulted my governor who asked for his help … They seek to get what they cannot get out of the ballotboxes from the streets. but they will never be able to do so,” he added.
“Some call me dictator. What kind of dictator would receive the Gezi Park occupiers and the sincere environmentalists,” Erdoğan said, adding that no dictator in the world would have allowed people to stage such a protest at Gezi Park.
“[Clearing Gezi Park of occupiers] is my duty as the prime minister. If I do not do it, I should not stay in this position. But those in Europe
claim [that occupying the park] was an issue of freedom. What freedom? The freedom should be within the framework of the rule of law. They want to put a tent in Gezi Park. If you want to put your tents up, go to a plateau,” he said.
“I have listened to all that has been said on this issue from the very beginning. We hold meetings, I have listened one by one. Isn’t this freedom, isn’t this democracy? The prime minister of this country accepts them and listens to them. But they tell completely different things when they go out of the meeting with me. They should know one thing very clearly: They can never find a prime minister like me in the world,” he said.
“These people used mosques as barns during the single-party period,” Erdoğan said.
“These dark circles will never be able to succeed in their attempt to destable this country. One thing they did not count on was the determination of its people,” he said.
“The call to prayer used to be recited in a flat, depressing way [in Turkish],” Erdoğan said. “However, with the decision of the Adnan Menderes government long ago, the call started being recited as original [in Arab],” he said.
Prime Minister Erdoğan said he will continue to hold mass rallies next weekend in Erzurum on Saturday and in Samsun on Sunday.
The transportation opportunities in the city were widened with boats carrying crowds to Kazlıçeşme from the Anatolian side of the city.
About 1,000 riot policemen were brought to Istanbul June 16 from the southeastern and eastern provinces of Diyarbakır, Şırnak, Siirt, Elazığ and the capital city of Ankara to support their colleagues in Istanbul at Gezi events and the AKP rally.
The AKP decision for the meetings was made after the protests and Gezi were the sole topics in his Ankara speech also. About an hour after his speech on June 15, Istanbul police stormed the city park to clear it of protesters.
Riot police used tear gas and water cannons starting from late June 15 to reclaim Gezi Park from demonstrators occupying it.
The clashes between the police lasted until the morning, with police using tear gas against groups that tried to enter the Taksim area in the afternoon also.
Thousands in Istanbul gathered on the streets in several districts of the city to march to Taksim Square, hours after the evacuation of Gezi Park.
Police intervened on one of the city’s arterial roads against protesters on the Asian side who had gathered in an attempt to cross the Bosphorus Bridge on foot.
Two water cannon trucks belonging to the gendarmerie forces came in reinforcement to the police near Taksim Square, which was not a usual practice. Some doctors and supporters of the Beşiktaş football team were detained June 16 by the police for supporting the ongoing Gezi Park protests. The police detained doctors in their white coats inside the Ramada Hotel.