TURKS DEFY PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN AS PROTESTS RUMBLE ON
<Pic credit: Reuters>
Thousands of Turks dug in today (June 8) for a weekend of anti-government demonstrations despite Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s demand for an immediate end to the worst political unrest of his decade in power.
In central Istanbul’s Taksim Square, where riot police backed by helicopters and armoured vehicles clashed with protesters a week ago, activists spent the night in a makeshift protest camp, sleeping in tents and vandalised buses, or wrapped in blankets under plane trees.
What began as a campaign against the redevelopment of Gezi Park in a corner of Taksim Square spiralled into an unprecedented display of public anger over the perceived authoritarianism of Mr Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party.
Police firing tear gas and water cannon have clashed with groups of protesters night after night in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities across the country for much of the past week, leaving three dead and some 4,000 injured.
Mr Erdogan yesterday demanded an immediate end to the protests, saying they had been founded on a “campaign of lies.” He has branded the demonstrators as looters and has said the protests are being manipulated by “terrorist” groups.
Mr Erdogan gave no indication of any immediate plans to remove the tent villages that have appeared in Taksim and a park in the capital, Ankara. But the gatherings mark a challenge to a leader whose authority is built on three successive election victories.
“Let them attack, they can’t stop us,” shouted a member of the Turkish Communist Party, shouting through loudspeakers to a cheering crowd from on top of a white van in Taksim Square.
“The AK Party will go. This will be the end.”
The protesters have built barricades of paving stones and corrugated iron on access roads to Taksim to try to protect themselves against a potential police assault. But their actions have brought gridlock to part of central Istanbul and it is unclear how long the authorities will tolerate their presence.
The square is lined by luxury hotels that should be doing a roaring trade as the summer season starts in one of the world’s most-visited cities. But a forced eviction could trigger a repeat of the clashes seen earlier in the week.