Riot police drive protesters out of Taksim Square

June 12, 2013 | By More

June 12, AP – A day-long protest against Prime Minister Erdogan’s government culminated on Tuesday night in a showdown with riot police on Taksim Square. Thousands of demonstrators attempted to hold their ground, setting off fireworks and throwing stones, as authorities moved in to quash the unrest.

human rights observers - Riot police drive protesters out of Taksim Square eu crisis1

Police in Istanbul have broken up a massive protest on Taksim Square, the epicenter of recent demonstrations against the prime minister. The raid came hours after the premier said protests would no longer be tolerated.

Riot police shot canisters of tear gas into the crowds and deployed water cannon, dispersing thousands, many of whom had protested peacefully. Isolated fires blazed on the emptied square as night fell.

It was not immediately clear how many protesters had been injured.

That afternoon, police had used bulldozers to demolish makeshift barricades that had been set up by protesters on the square.

Demonstrations erupted nearly two weeks ago when police used excessive force on a peaceful demonstration in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. The reactionary demonstrations have evolved from what began as protests against the city’s plans to develop one of its few remaining green spaces to public outcry against the prime minister.

During Erdogan’s tenure, many have come to view him as an authoritarian figure eager to erode Turkey’s secular tradition with legislation based in Islamic conservatism.

‘No tolerance’

The raid on Taksim Square came several hours after Erdogan appeared to signal a shift in how his government would deal with the unrest.

“Were we supposed to kneel before them and say please remove your pieces of rags? They can call me harsh, but this Tayyip Erdogan won’t change,” he said, in defense of previous violence against Turkish citizens.

“To those who…are at Taksim [Square] 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,” Erdogan said during a speech before lawmakers in Ankara on Tuesday.

“Not only will we end the actions, we will be at the necks of the provocateurs and terrorists and no one will get away with it,” he added.

Erdogan’s words sharply contrasted to what his government had said just a day earlier. On Monday, his deputy, Bulent Arinc, had said the prime minister was open to dialogue with the protesters and was planning to meet with some of their representatives on Wednesday.

Turkish allies concerned

The recent renewal of harsh crack downs has drawn criticism from Turkey’s allies.

“It causes me great concern when I see the use of water cannon,” the German government’s human rights commissioner, Markus Löning, told the private news broadcaster n-TV on Tuesday.

“We call on the Turkish government to respect the rights of its citizens,” Löning added.

United States officials have also urged Ankara and Turkish protesters to “refrain from provoking violence.”

“We continue to have serious concerns about the reports of excessive use of force by police and large numbers of injuries and damage to property, and welcome calls for these events to be investigated,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters earlier this week.

Associated press coordinator for human rights observers – Norberto Lluch reports from the region.


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Category: European Crises

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