After viciously attacking peaceful protestors for 36 hours with tear gas and pepper spray to hold onto the area, Turkish police retreat as thousands of protesters pour into Istanbul’s Taksim Square….
Police have started withdrawing from a main Istanbul square to allow in tens of thousands of protesters campaigning against the potential construction of a shopping centre in a park.
State-run Private Dogan news agency said officers removed barricades after brief scuffles with demonstrators who hurled fireworks at them.
Riot police in Istanbul have fought running battles with thousands of people who turned out to protect a park in the city’s central Taksim Square.
Water cannon and tear gas were used as protesters tried to reach the square and the parliament building in the capital, Ankara.
It all started with a peaceful protest over plans to redevelop the Gezi Parka but it has become bigger than just an environmental protest. It is now a demonstration against the Islamist-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
First pictures, then videos of brutal police attacks on unarmed protesters in Istanbul caused the protests to spread to other cities, with riot police being deployed in Ankara overnight.
On Thursday morning, riot police were sent to disperse the sleeping protesters camping in the park. Videos of masked police burning down tents and firing tear gas at unarmed people shocked the public.
The protesters rallied once more on Thursday night and the situation got worse on Friday morning.
The police raid was even more brutal than the previous day and people who were trying to escape police got crushed under a wall they were trying to climb.
The videos spread quickly through social networks while news channels and mainstream media failed to report on what was starting to become a social resistance movement.
Throughout Friday, protesters tried re-entering the park that had been sealed off by police barricades.
People from all walks of life rallied around this seemingly unimportant protest. University students, actors, journalists, artists, young or old, conservative or liberal, were all united in the movement.
Social media has become the main source of information and people are now afraid the government will shut down the internet.
Twitter has become the eyes and ears of the Gezi movement. Protesters relay crucial information about police barricades, open roads, injury status or emergency situations.
Police closed access even to ambulances on Friday and protesters who were injured asked for medical help via Twitter or Facebook.
A group of medical students and doctors volunteered and their names and numbers were quickly broadcast on Twitter, urging protesters to call them if anyone was seriously injured.
Lawyers have volunteered their services to those who have been arrested.
When police started using jammers to stop communication in Taksim, shops, cafes and businesses shared their wifi passwords on Twitter to help everyone share their pictures and videos.
What started as a simple environmental protest has become a nationwide movement against a government that is seen by many as authoritarian.
Mr Erdogan said on Saturday that the redevelopment would go ahead despite the opposition and vowed to bring the unrest under control.
“Police were there yesterday, they’ll be on duty today and also tomorrow because Taksim Square cannot be an area where extremists are running wild,” he said in televised remarks.
Meanwhile, support rallies have gathered in Ankara, Izmir, Kocaeli and Adana and their numbers are increasing.
The UK Foreign Office called for restraint and urged the government not to use tear gas “indiscriminately”.
“We encourage the Turkish authorities to respect the right to peaceful protest and freedom of assembly, which are fundamental human rights in any democratic society,” a spokesman said in a statement.
It also urged British travellers to avoid the protests.
- Brutal attack on Save Trees Demo sparks Turkey Uprising (thefreeonline.wordpress.com)
- Istanbul riot police withdrawing from Taksim square, protesters remain (rt.com)
- ‘Istanbul in Complete Chaos’ After Clashes Between Police and Protesters (theepochtimes.com)Police pull out of Istanbul square BBC Europe (Today) – Thousands of people flood into Istanbul’s Taksim Square as riot police withdraw, the latest step in days of protests sparked by plans to develop a park in the Turkish city….
- Turkey PM defiant as protests rage BBC Europe (Today) – Turkey’s PM vows to press ahead with a controversial park redevelopment that sparked violence in Istanbul and Ankara, but police pull out of a square at the centre of unrest….
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- Tear gas, protesters pour into disputed Istanbul square CNN Top Stories (Today) – Turkey’s prime minister says the police crackdown on a peaceful protest, which has now sparked the biggest riots in Istanbul in a decade, was “excessive.”…
- Istanbul protesters vow to continue demonstrations DW Top News (Today) – Turkish police have fired tear gas and water canons in clashes with activists and opposition groups. Protesters say they’re fighting for human rights against an increasingly authoritarian government….