ISTANBUL: Turkish police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as they dispersed several thousand demonstrators who had gathered anew in central Istanbul in the latest flare-up of protests challenging the Islamic-rooted government’s decade-long rule.
Hundreds of riot police backed up by water cannon trucks moved in on protesters who had gathered in Istanbul’s flashpoint Taksim Square, chanting for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to step down.
“This is but a start, the battle continues!” the protesters yelled, throwing red carnations in honor of those killed, injured and detained during the demonstrations that shook Turkey for much of June. “It is by resisting that we will prevail!”
Saturday’s demonstration was meant to mark a week since police evicted thousands of people from the adjacent Gezi Park, the epicenter of nationwide protests that shook Turkey, infuriated Erdogan and earned the country harsh criticism from the West.
Following the eviction, the protests fizzled out as the premier claimed victory over “traitors.”
“The people and the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party]government have foiled the plot . . . hatched by traitors and their foreign accomplices,” Erdogan said on Tuesday.
“From now on, there will be no question of showing any tolerance to people or organizations who engage in violent acts.”
But on Saturday the violence flared again as police chased protesters fleeing the water cannon in Taksim into the surrounding streets.
Turkey’s crisis began when a small campaign to save Gezi Park’s 600 trees from being razed in a redevelopment project was met with a brutal police response on May 31.