Protests continue in Istanbul
Turkey’s prime minister has vowed to continue with the demolition of an inner city park in order to turn it into a shopping centre, an issue that initially triggered largely peaceful demonstrations which have snowballed into Turkey’s most violent anti-government protests in a number of years.
Protests against the demolition of part of Istanbul’s Taksim Square and Gezi Park began on the evening of 27th May, when protests initiated a sit-in to stop works. The demolition is connected to a major tunnel-construction project that will route traffic to run under the square.
Protesters believed the demolition was the first step in a government project to transform the tree-lined park, one of the city’s few green spaces, into a shopping mall. The project is controversial, because the prime minister imposed the scheme without public consultation, despite significant opposition. As a result, the protests have since widened to generally oppose Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP.
The heavy-handedness of police in their attempts to clear the largely peaceful protests has been cited as the catalyst to the escalation of violence. The Turkish Doctors’ Association said the demonstrations had so far left 1,000 people injured in Istanbul and 700 in Ankara, where the protests have spread to.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish Prime minister, stated on 1st June that the government would continue to go ahead with plans to transform Taksim Square and Gezi Park. He condemned the protests as a “game” and although he admitted mistakes in the use of tear gas by the police, he indicated there would be no retreat, asserting “The police were there yesterday, and police will be there today and tomorrow.”
By the afternoon of 1st June, tear gas had been used repeatedly to disperse thousands of demonstrators massing in the main streets leading to Taksim Square and Gezi Park.
The protests have been organised through social media sites such as Twitter, with the largely state-controlled media ignoring the protests. Mr. Erdoğan has condemned Twitter as a “menace”.