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Turkey protests: Clashes continue despite PM’s warning

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Clashes between Turkish police and protesters have resumed in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, despite a warning from PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he would not show “any more tolerance”.

Police overnight used tear gas and water cannon to try to remove demonstrators from the square.

Istanbul’s governor, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, earlier said operations would go on night and day to clear the square.

Protests began 13 days ago over the redevelopment of nearby Gezi Park.

The protests then widened, with demonstrators accusing Mr Erdogan’s government of becoming increasingly authoritarian and trying to impose conservative Islamic values on a secular state.

After riot police tried again to clear Taksim Square overnight, some demonstrators moved to Gezi Park.

Many peaceful demonstrators have also been caught in the clashes, and volunteers have set up makeshift clinics to treat anyone injured.

‘It’s over’

The violence follows a day of sporadic unrest in Istanbul.

“We will continue our measures in an unremitting manner, whether day or night, until marginal elements are cleared and the square is open to the people,” Mr Mutlu said in televised comments.


At the scene

image of Mark LowenMark LowenBBC News, Istanbul

I watched as telecoms trucks were set ablaze, black smoke fusing with the white plumes of tear gas into an acrid mix.

Arcs of water cannon were spewed towards protesters, some of whom responded with petrol bombs and bricks. All through the day, the game of cat and mouse continued.

The police actions are a deliberate show of force that may jeopardise plans by Mr Erdogan to meet some protest organisers on Wednesday.

But he also said the action would “be conducted with care, in front of our people’s eyes, in front of televisions and under the eyes of social media, with caution and in accordance with the law”.

Mr Erdogan defended the police action on Tuesday, saying that an environmental movement had been hijacked by people who wanted to harm Turkey.

In a televised speech to members of parliament belonging to his Justice and Development Party (AKP) that was frequently interrupted by applause, he asked: “They say the prime minister is rough. So what was going to happen?

Mr Erdogan says protesters’ actions have infringed on people’s freedom

“Were we going to kneel down in front of these [people]?

“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.”

Nationwide protests

Early on Tuesday, police made loudspeaker announcements, telling protesters to withdraw from the square, before using water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to clear them.

Bulldozers were sent in to clear barricades and shelters.

 

Turkish police at Taksim Square, 11 June 2013Tuesday’s operation was seen as a show of force by the Turkish police


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They also removed protesters’ banners from a building overlooking the square, replacing them with the national flag and a portrait of the father of the Turkish state, Kemal Ataturk – who has also been used as a symbol by demonstrators.

The protests began on 31 May.

The Turkish Human Rights Foundation says four people have been killed, including one policeman.

Some 5,000 protesters have been treated for injuries or the effects of tear gas, while officials say 600 police have also been injured.

Protests have also occurred in the capital, Ankara, with smaller demonstrations in many other cities.

Police in Ankara have used water cannon and tear gas to break up demonstrations almost every night.

Map of protest locations in Turkey and Istanbul
Source : BBC

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