Turkish riot police end 18-day protest
ISTANBUL — Turkey's riot police fired tear gas and water cannons on Saturday — taking less than 30 minutes to bring to an end an 18-day occupation of an Istanbul park at the center of the strongest challenge to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's 10-year rule.
The sweep by white-helmeted riot police emptied Gezi Park of protesters, leaving a series of colorful, abandoned tents behind. Bulldozers moved in afterward, scooping up debris as crews of workmen in hard hats and fluorescent-yellow vests tore down the tents. Protesters put up little physical resistance, even as plain-clothes police shoved many of them to drive them from the park.
White smoke billowed skyward as a phalanx of riot police marched inside the park. They tore down protesters' banners, toppled a communal food stall and sprayed tear gas over the tents.
Demonstrators inside the tents were urged to get out. For more than two weeks, protesters had defied Erdogan's warnings to vacate the area.
Tayfun Kahraman, a member of Taksim Solidarity, an umbrella group of protest movements, said an untold number of people in the park had been injured — some from rubber bullets.
“Let them keep the park; we don't care anymore. Let it all be theirs,” Kahraman said. “This crackdown has to stop. The people are in a terrible state.”
A brutal police intervention on May 31 against those protesting plans to redevelop the square and the park had sparked the biggest anti-government protests in Turkey in decades and dented Erdogan's international reputation.
The protests, which at one point spread to dozens of cities and towns, turned into a much broader expression of discontent about Erdogan's government. The demonstrations indicate his increasingly authoritarian decision-making.
Erdogan, elected with 50 percent of the vote for his third term in 2011, vehemently rejects the accusations by protesters and points to his strong support base.
Erdogan lashed out at what he called the “plot” behind the biggest street protests in his 10-year tenure.
“You are here, and you are spoiling the treacherous plot, the treacherous attack!” he said.
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.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.