In Istanbul, Police Move Against Anti-Government Protesters

Jun 11, 2013
Originally published on June 11, 2013 9:10 pm

Update at 8:42 p.m. ET. Unrest May Continue All Night:

As Tuesday night wore into Wednesday morning, Turkish riot police were clashing with demonstrators in Istanbul's Taksim Square. Barrages of tear gas were fired into the square, where several fires burned on vehicles and other material. Some protesters were equipped with gas masks.

Speaking on television Tuesday, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said he will not bend to the protesters' demands. Here's a portion of that speech, from the BBC:

"If you call this roughness, I'm sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won't change."

"To those who... are at Taksim and elsewhere taking part in the demonstrations with sincere feelings: I call on you to leave those places and to end these incidents and I send you my love.

"But for those who want to continue with the incidents I say: 'It's over.'

"As of now we have no tolerance for them."

Early Wednesday, "a fresh wave of tear gas engulfed Gezi Park — where government officials have said protesters can stay — as a column of police broke through barricades on a side street nearby," CNN reports.

Update at 3:22 p.m. ET. As Night Falls, Clashes Continue:

It's 10:22 p.m. in Turkey and as the sun set, clashes between police and protesters continued. They began early this morning when riot police moved into Istanbul's Taksim Square, removing barricades and attempting to remove anti-government protesters.

As night fell, television images of Taksim Square showed protesters still there, launching fireworks at police and police responding with tear gas and water cannons.

The Guardian, which is live-blogging the situation, reports:

"Dozens of police have been again been sweeping across Taksim Square this evening, backed by water cannon.

"Reuters reports that riot police fired volleys of teargas canisters, driving thousands into narrow side streets.

"Moments before their advance, police were confronted by protesters jeering and calling for them to leave the square."

Our Original Post Continues:

Riot police pushed into Istanbul's Taksim Square on Tuesday, removing barricades and pushing anti-government protesters away, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.

Broadcasts showed some of the protesters throwing Molotov cocktails toward the police, who responded with tear gas and blasts from water cannons. Protesters could be seen fleeing. Witnesses say there were "several dozen" protesters injured, Reuters says.

It was a renewed show of force by the government after nearly two weeks of protests that have spread to other Turkish cities. What began as a peaceful demonstration against plans to develop Istanbul's Gezi Park has grown. Those who believe that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing for too many conservative changes, such as restrictions on the sale of alcohol, have used the government's initially harsh reaction to the protests against the park development as a rallying cry.

On Tuesday, according to The Wall Street Journal, the government tried to differentiate between the protesters who were in Taksim Square and those who have been occupying the park:

"Istanbul's governor sought to draw a distinction between violent protesters damaging the country's image and peaceful demonstrators at the adjacent park that spawned the wider protests.

"Speaking at a news conference around three hours after hundreds of Turkish riot police moved into Taksim Square early Tuesday, Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said police intervened to clear 'marginal groups' from the square but the government doesn't intend to move against peaceful demonstrators in Gezi Park, where he said protesters have shown 'sensibility.' "

Reuters reports that during Tuesday's operation to clear the square, "police appealed to the protesters not to throw rocks, calling from loudspeakers, 'Dear Gezi friends. We are unhappy with this situation. We don't want to intervene. We don't want to harm you. Please withdraw.' "

The wire service adds that "Turkey's Medical Association said that as of late Monday, 4,947 people had sought treatment in hospitals and voluntary infirmaries for injuries, ranging from cuts and burns to breathing difficulties from tear gas inhalation, since the unrest began more than 10 days ago."

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