Tags: turkey | protest | erdogan

Turkish Police Crack Down on Revival of Protests

By    |   Sunday, 16 June 2013 06:49 AM

ISTANBUL — Riot police with water cannons and tear gas are hitting protesters who remain defiant after authorities evicted activists from an Istanbul park.

Sunday's clampdown indicated authorities were taking a hardline against attempts to rekindle the protests.

In Ankara, the capital, police dispersed hundreds who tried to hold a memorial service for an activist who died of injuries sustained in a nearby police crackdown nearby on June 1.

A police sweep in Ankara's Gezi Park on Saturday ended a more than two-week sit-in by activists.  By Sunday, riot police were still sporadically clashing with pockets of protesters in streets near the park as tens of thousands of supporters of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan began gathering for a rally six miles away.

Thee operation to clear Gezi Park on Saturday evening came just two hours after Erdogan issued an ultimatum to demonstrators to end their occupation of the site, the symbolic heart of nationwide protests against the government.
 
Thousands of campers scrambled to escape the clouds of acrid smoke, as officers with gas masks and riot shields stormed the patch of green, clearing it within minutes and leaving a trail of empty tents in their wake.
 
Many demonstrators sought refuge in the luxury hotels bordering the park, prompting police to douse the lobby of at least one five-star establishment with water, as guests choked on tear gas fumes.
 
"We have an Istanbul rally tomorrow (Sunday)," Erdogan told tens of thousands of cheering loyalists at an election rally for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) shortly before Saturday's police operation.
 
"If (the area) is not evacuated, this country's security forces know how to evacuate there," he said in the capital Ankara."Nobody can intimidate us," he added. "We don't take orders or instructions from anybody except from God."
 
As the clashes raged in Istanbul, thousands of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets of Ankara and the western city of Izmir in solidarity, though the demos stayed peaceful.
 
It was Gezi Park that first lit the flame of the unrest that has rocked Turkey. On May 31, a peaceful sit-in to save the park's 600 trees from being razed in a redevelopment plan was met with a brutal police response, snowballing into angry demonstrations against Erdogan across the country.

Critics accuse the premier of increasing authoritarianism and of forcing Islamic conservative values on the mainly Muslim but staunchly secular nation of 76 million.
 
The crisis has claimed four lives and injured nearly 7,500 people so far, according to the Turkish Medical Association, and represents the biggest challenge yet to Erdogan's decade-long rule at the head of an Islamic-rooted government.

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Riot police with water cannons and tear gas are hitting protesters who remain defiant after authorities evicted activists from an Istanbul park.
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2013-49-16
Sunday, 16 June 2013 06:49 AM
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