1 Jun 2013

Turkey protests: police fire tear gas on demonstrators

Turkish police fire tear gas and pressurised water at demonstrators on a second day of anti-government action, which was sparked by a protest to protect a park from redevelopment.

Around 500 people marched across the Bosporus Bridge in Istanbul towards the main Taksim Square – where on Friday allegedly heavy-handed police tactics to break up a peaceful sit-in sparked action.

People, some wearing handkerchiefs and surgical masks and chanting “unite against fascism” and “government resign”, were then met with teargas and pressurised water cannons. Some demonstrators threw stones at police.

The use of gas at such proportions is unacceptable. It is a danger to public health and as such is a crime. Ozturk Turkdogan, Turkish Human Rights Association

Police detained a group of protesters who ran into a hotel to shelter from the gas, the private Dogan news agency reported.

Police were also reported to have cracked down on hundreds of people trying to march to parliament in the Turkish capital of Ankara.

On Saturday evening, Turkey’s interior ministry said that 939 arrests had been made at more than 90 demonstrations across the country.

On Friday teargas was also used on protestors gathered in Taksim, the square that is earmarked for redevelopment (see picture, below).

Police fire teargas at a woman in Taksim Square, Turkey, as protestors gather to protect a park from redevelopment (picture: Reuters)

Ozturk Turkdogan, the head of the Turkish Human Rights Association, said hundreds of people in several cities were injured and a few hundred people were arrested. The Dogan news agency said 81 demonstrators were detained in Istanbul.

There were also reports of a media blackout.

The protest is seen as a demonstration of anger against the police, who have been accused of using excessive force to quash protests and of being too willing to fire teargas on demonstrators.

There is also said to be resentment from mainly pro-secular circles toward Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government. Erdogan is accused of adopting an increasingly uncompromising stance and showing little tolerance of criticism.


Mr Turkdogan said: “The use of gas at such proportions is unacceptable. It is a danger to public health and as such is a crime.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t a prosecutor brave enough to stand up to police. The people are standing up against Erdogan who is trying to monopolize power and is meddling in all aspects of life.”

Turkish politicians, from the ruling party and members of the opposition, took to Twitter to report what was happening.

Ali Kilic, of Turkey’s main opposition party, CHP, posted a picture of people in the street, and said they were chanting “Our Taksim, our Istanbul” and calling for the prime minister’s resignation.

Prime Minister Erdogan was also on Twitter, telling the country that they had “the right to freely express their opinion” (see tweet, below).

He also said that despite protests, redevelopment of the park would go ahead – leading to some comments on Twitter that he had “missed the point”.

A British man who witnessed the protests told Channel 4 News that he believed that theywere a reaction to a series of small changes by the government to things that are associated with the Turkish identity.

The man called Peter, who has lived in Turkey for 20 years, said “Obviously there are lot of people who are worried because they are creating this atmosphere of fear. In Taksim its like a war zone.”