Turkish police continue crackdown on demonstrators as protests spread

1st Jun 2013
Istanbul, (Today’s Zaman): Police continued to clash with thousands of demonstrators in İstanbul and many other cities who took to the streets to who protested government plans prevent demolition of İstanbul’s Gezi Park and police’s violent crackdown on peaceful protests for four days.

Police let off tear gas and pressurized water against groups of protesters trying to reach a main İstanbul square early on Saturday.

The protest grew out of anger at police’s heavy-handed tactics to break up a peaceful sit-in to protect a park in İstanbul’s main Taksim square on Friday. It turned into a wider protest and spread to other Turkish cities. Dozens were injured in the scuffles.

On Saturday, police clashed with several groups of youths trying to reach Taksim. Some threw stones at police.

Some 500 people marched along the Bosporus Bridge from Asian shore of the city, toward Taksim, on the European side, but were met with pressurized water and tear gas that filled the air in a thick coat of smoke.

There were clashes between protestors and police in İzmir throughout the night. Police said 92 people were detained during the crackdown.

In Ankara, people gathered in front of the Turkish Parliament building to protest the Gezi Park demolition. They threw stones and Molotov cocktails the police, who used tear gas to disperse the crowd.  There were also protests in Eskişehir, Muğla, Konya, Yalova, Antalya and Bolu throughout the night and on Saturday.

The incidents began to turn violent by Thursday night when hundreds of people had joined protestors who have been camping for the past three days to stand guard against the demolition of the park’s walls and the uprooting of trees in an act of solidarity.

The group was dispersed by riot police who arrived at the scene early on Friday with riot control vehicles and pepper spray.

The group resisted the police and clashed in sometimes violent incidents but had to leave the area when officers used tear gas and water cannons to break up the protest. Some reports said several protestors were injured when a wall they were climbing collapsed during a police chase, while several others were detained. Police attacked protestors once again in the afternoon with tear gas and pressurized water in Taksim Square and the Harbiye and Gümüşsuyu quarters.

The excessive force used by police has drawn outrage and condemnation from various circles, including the European Union which strongly condemned police’s handling of the protestors.

At a press conference on Friday, İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu said 63 people were detained and 12 were injured in the clashes. Yet, the figures dramatically rose at night.

He asserted that he fully respects people’s freedom of expression and that there is not a ‘tree massacre’ at the Gezi Park. Governor Mutlu claimed that there are certain groups trying to cause tension between the police and protestors to show as if police do not care about the nature. “We certainly know these groups and their aims. We also know that they have nothing to do with love for nature,” he added.




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