Police intervene at Istanbul's Taksim Square, enter Gezi Park
People run as riot police fires a water cannon on Gezi Park protesters at Taksim Square in Istanbul June 15. REUTERS photo
Police intervened once again in Istanbul's Taksim Square using tear gas and water cannons yesterday evening to quell the protesters an hour after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ultimatum to evacuate the Gezi Park before June 16.
Ambulances were seen entering the park following the intervention. Police have also entered the park for the first time after two weeks. Security forces took over the park, demolishing the tents of the protesters. Dozers worked to clear the remaining barricades around the park. Protesters had started a few hours earlier to remove the barricades standing at the entrance of the park following hours of discussion on their next move. The police have also cordoned off the Taksim Square.
The İstiklal Street ascending the Taksim Square is filled with a large crowd with water cannon trucks waiting at the Taksim entrance. A tiny barricade was removed by the police. A separate group and police clashed in Harbiye side of the park.
Police encircle Divan hotel
Ambulances have also started picking injured people up from Divan hotel at the Harbiye entrance of the park, which has been used by the protesters as a health center from the beginning of the protests. Protesters sang the national anthem in a bid to prevent police attack on the hotel.
Amnesty International’s Turkey Director Murat Çekiç said that police tried to break the doors of the Divan Hotel. Injured people tried to reach the upper floors, he added. A few minutes after, live footage showed police encircling the building and throwing tear gas inside the doors of the hotel.
Police also fired tear gas against the volunteer doctors, the general secretary of the Turkish Medical Chamber Ali Çerkezoğlu said via Twitter. “Turkey will live its darkest night if this attack lasts for more than one hour,” he also said in a televised interview.
The riot police stationed in front of the Atatürk Cultural Center made announcements before the intervention asking protesters to disperse from the park.
There was a vast crowd, including kids and elderly people in the park, only minutes before the police raid.
The ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) Spokeperson Hüseyin Çelik said that the police evacuation could not have waited until tomorrow. He also slammed the representatives of the Taksim Solidarity Platform that met with Erdoğan two nights before for not announcing the end of the protest during their morning statement. “A country’s prime minister will meet you for 10 hours, you will reach an agreement then say something else behind his back. Wouldn’t you feel cheated [if you were in his shoes]?” Çelik told private broadcaster Habertürk.
The protesters had earlier decided to stay in the park despite the assurances, but nevertheless cleared the park from barricades and political banners.
The Taksim Solidarity Platform, which launched the protests two weeks ago, had also called for a mass meeting tomorrow at 4 p.m.