5 Videos, many photos- Turkish Police crackdown triggers anti-government riots
A police crackdown against a peaceful sit-in protesting government plans to demolish a park ignited the biggest anti-government riots this city has seen in a decade.
As demonstrators clashed with police in Turkey’s largest city Friday, and protests spread to several other cities, including the capital Ankara and many others.
At least 14 people were injured in the clashes in the capital, including one who suffered brain trauma, the Istanbul governor’s office said.
In the predawn hours Saturday, crowds gathered across central Istanbul chanting “government resign” and “shoulder to shoulder against fascism.” Phalanxes of helmeted riot police responded with volleys of tear gas canisters.
The security forces continued firing tear gas at demonstrators in Istanbul throughout the day Saturday.
People of Istanbul chanting for the resignation of Erdogan’s Govern.
For 24 hours, a toxic fog of tear gas and pepper spray has hung in the air over Istanbul’s central Taksim square.
This major transport hub and commercial district has become the main battleground between angry protesters who hurled stones and bottles at riot police. Turkish security forces allowed small groups of pedestrians to travel through the square, but any time a group of more than 100 people congregated, they were slammed by water cannons and gas bombs that sent bystanders fleeing and screaming for cover.
At dawn on Saturday, activists on Turkish social media sites posted photos and videos of hundreds of protesters marching across the first suspension bridge that crosses the Bosphorus Strait, which divides the European and Asian halves of Istanbul.
On Saturday, Turkey’s fiery prime minister broke his silence about the protests, vowing not to back down to the demonstrators.
“The police where there yesterday, they are there today, and they will be there tomorrow. Taksim Square cannot be allowed to be a place where marginal groups can freely roam,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech transmitted live on Turkish television channels.
International human rights groups Amnesty International and Greenpeace have denounced what they describe as excessive use of police force against peaceful protesters.
On Friday, city government officials said at least 12 people had been wounded in the clashes, and at least 63 people detained.
This Excessive Force for just a protest against Mall construction
People of Istanbul against Govern. “This is the starting, Keep up the Resistance”
Riots, barricades, street battles as police fight protesters in Turkey
Lost amid the explosion of anger in the streets of Istanbul was the original source of the protests.
Earlier this week, several dozen activists tried to stage a sit-in in Gezi Park, the last bit of green space left in Taksim Square.
The demonstrators were protesting government plans to level the park and replace it with a reconstruction of century-old Ottoman military barracks, to have been updated with a shopping mall and a mosque.
On Wednesday, Erdogan responded to the small park protest, vowing to go ahead with the planned project.
“They can do whatever they want. We’ve made our decision, and we will do as we have decided,” Erdogan said, according to the semi-official Anadolu news agency.
For three straight days, police periodically raided the park protest, dousing unarmed demonstrators with pepper spray and tear gas. The sit-in continued to grow and win support from Turkish celebrities and lawmakers from both the main secular and pro-Kurdish opposition political parties.
On Friday morning, riot police stormed the growing camp in Gezi Park with water cannons and more tear gas, pushing protesters out into surrounding streets, and triggering the clashes that have continued for more than 24 hours.
In his televised statement on Saturday, Erdogan remained defiant on his plans for the park, saying “we are going to build the Topcu barracks, it is not a project that came out of nowhere.”
But many demonstrators said they were no longer protesting about the park.
The demonstrations were now against the increasingly authoritarian policies of Erdogan, the most powerful, popular and polarizing leader Turkey has seen in generations.
Turkey has enjoyed an unprecedented decade of economic growth, since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party first swept to power after winning elections in 2002 on a campaign to institute pro-democratic reforms.
But in recent years, the Turkish government has come under fire from media watchdog groups for its prolonged detention of more journalists than any other country in the world. Turkish security forces have also made such frequent use of tear gas against opposition protesters that some critics have started referring to the prime minister as “Chemical Tayyip.”