Hundreds injured as police clear Istanbul park

Protesters try to resist the advance of riot police in Gezi Park in Istanbul, Turkey on Saturday.  

Hundreds of anti-government demonstrators were injured as >Turkish police used excessive force to clear Istanbul’s Gezi Park, the main group organizing the protests said on Sunday.

In a carefully planned operation on Saturday, police drove more than 10,000 protesters out of the tent camp in Gezi Park, using water cannon and tear gas.

The city government then sent in bulldozers and refuse trucks to remove the traces of the protest that started more than two weeks ago. Several hundred officers entered the camp, witnesses said.

The Taksim Solidarity group said there was an excessive use of rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades, noting that there were women with children and elderly people in the park. It described the police action as a crime against humanity.

It also demanded that police stop hampering the work of doctors who are voluntarily aiding the protesters.

What initially started as peaceful protests by environmental groups to stop a planned building project in the Istanbul park, has descended into anger at what the demonstrators call Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

The plan calls for Gezi Park, one of Istanbul’s few remaining green spaces, to be replaced with a replica of an Ottoman-era barracks housing a shopping mall.

The government has made clear that it would crack down on further protests. Later Sunday, Mr. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) plans to hold a rally in Istanbul.

Anyone who entered Taksim Square would be treated as a terrorist, Egemen Bagis, the minister responsible for negotiations with the European Union, said in a television interview, according to a report in Hurriyet Daily News.

In recent days, Mr. Bagis has alleged foreign interference in the protests and criticized international media coverage.

Taksim Solidarity warned that the protests will not stop.

Hours before the police moved into the park Saturday, Mr. Erdogan had vowed to remove the demonstrators by force.

“If they don’t vacate the park, the security forces of this country will know what to do,” Erdogan told tens of thousands of supporters in the capital, Ankara.

The heated stand-off had led to international concerns about Turkey -- a NATO ally, aspiring EU member and backer of recent pro-democracy uprisings in the Middle East.

There was been no progress on Turkey’s EU membership bid for more than two years, largely because of French and German resistance and Turkey’s tensions with EU member Cyprus. Now there are questions about whether the protests may further hamper its bid.

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 1:13:06 AM |

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