Pandemonium overtakes protests in Istanbul
ISTANBUL — Turkish riot police engaged in fierce, running battles on Tuesday with pockets of protesters who stormed a central Istanbul square almost two weeks since the start of anti-government demonstrations.
Police fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets at protesters in Taksim Square and protesters hurled rocks and fireworks back at them in some of the worst violence since the demonstrations began.
The crowd included people in office clothes gathered after work and families with children, as well as youths in masks who had fought skirmishes throughout the day.
Clouds of choking tear gas sent them scattering into side streets. Staff in surrounding hotels raised shutters just enough to allow people to crawl inside for shelter, as water cannons swept across the square targeting stone-throwing youths.
The fierce crackdown on the initial protests against the planned redevelopment of Gezi Park, a leafy corner of Taksim, drew international condemnation and calls for restraint. The latest police move occurred a day after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who has dismissed the demonstrators as “riff-raff,” agreed to meet protest leaders on Wednesday.
“There's no room for dialogue when there's ongoing violence,” said Mucella Yapici of the Taksim Solidarity Platform, a core group behind the Gezi Park campaign.
Chanting gangs of hard-core demonstrators taunted police in the narrow lanes leading down to the Bosphorus waterway late into the night, drawing more tear gas and spray from water cannons. Municipal workers used bulldozers to remove the remains of vandalized vehicles and clear the square.
Erdogan earlier called on protesters to stay out of Taksim, where a heavy-handed police crackdown on a rally against development of Gezi Park triggered the unprecedented wave of protest in cities across Turkey.
Gezi Park has been turned into a ramshackle settlement of tents by leftists, environmentalists, liberals, students and professionals who see the development plan as symptomatic of an overbearing government.
The authorities have said that legitimate protesters in the park will be allowed to stay, for now, and they remained camped out.
The protests, during which demonstrators have used fireworks and gas bombs, have posed a stark challenge to Erdogan's authority and divided the country. Erdogan, who denies accusations of authoritarian behavior, said he would not yield.
“They say the prime minister is rough. So what was going to happen here? Were we going to kneel down in front of these (people)?” Erdogan said as action to clear the square began.
“If you call this roughness, I'm sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won't change,” he told a meeting of his AK party's parliamentary group.
Western powers have voiced concern about the troubles in an important NATO ally bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran. The United States in the past has pointed to Erdogan's Turkey as an Islamic democracy that could be emulated elsewhere in the Middle East.
“We continue to follow events in Turkey with concern, and our interest remains supporting freedom of expression and assembly, including the right to peaceful protest,” White House spokesman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement in Washington.
The victor in three consecutive elections, Erdogan says the protests are engineered by vandals, terrorist elements and unnamed foreign forces. His critics, who say conservative religious elements have won out over centrists in the AK Party, accuse him of inflaming the crisis with unyielding talk.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Venezuelan police chief freed from jail
- Mementos unearthed at Nazi death camp in Poland
- Islamic State link with well-heeled companies or individuals targeted
- Yemeni government and Houthi rebels reach agreement, U.N. envoy says
- Turkish hostages freed from Islamic State, but questions linger
- NATO chief: Ukraine truce ‘in name only’
- Economic powers at odds on stimulus as G20 gathers
- Islamic State frees 49 hostages
- Egyptian President al-Sisi feels vindicated in crackdown as Islamic extremists rise
- London must keep promises to Scotland, former Prime Minister Brown says
- Scottish teens surprise in independence vote