Police withdraw from Taksim after violent crackdown as protesters remain defiant on 5th day
As police withdraws, protesters take back the Taksim Square as well as the Gezi park (seen in the back). AA photo
The police forces started to withdraw from Taksim on June 1, where a brutal crackdown targeting demonstrators protesting the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park had been ongoing for over a day. Clashes broke out in Istanbul's symbolic İstiklal Avenue, the Beşiktaş and Harbiye districts, but police start to withdraw around 4 p.m., ahead of a march by the Republican People's Party (CHP).
Protesters entered Taksim Square and even took over Gezi Park, which had been cordoned off by the police after a very violent dawn raid on demonstrators on May 31. The raid had triggered some of the largest clashes between police and peaceful protesters in Turkey in recent years after activists occupied Gezi Park on May 28.
According to witnesses, the police forces, despite withdrawing, fired back a tear gas salvo at protesters in the İstiklal Avenue, Harbiye and Beşiktaş connections to Taksim Square. Police used a huge amount of tear gas at the Harbiye entrance of Gezi Park, while protesters were at the same time able to gather in numbers at Taksim Square.
Despite a festive atmosphere in Taksim, clashes broke out again just a few kilometers away close to Beşiktaş, where the Istanbul Office of Prime Minister Erdoğan is located. Police continued to attack with loads of tear gas and water cannon despite the earlier calls for truce by the officials. Protesters responded chanting behind barricades to avoid police intervention.
Security forces had used tear gas and water cannons on the morning of June 1 to quell protesters who had gathered on İstiklal Avenue, as well as its sidestreets. When the police fired the water and gas, protesters tried to escape from the narrow streets leading to the Cihangir neighborhood.
Between 4,000 and 5,000 protesters gathered again after the police's first intervention. However police fired once again, entering the pedestrian street with a water cannon riot vehicle. Some protesters made barricades with trees and bins about 100 meters from Saint Anthony's Church, near Galatasaray Square. Around an hour later the police destroyed the barricade and protesters escaped into sidestreets.
Despite the repeated police interventions, the numbers gathered at the protests only increased. Protesters chanted slogans against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, calling on the government to resign.
Between 4,000 and 5,000
protesters gathered in
İstiklal street this morning.
Crowds also crossed the Bosphorus Bridge to the European side in the early morning hours of June 1, seeking to reach Taksim Square. However, their route was blocked by police who again fired tear gas and water cannon near the Beşiktaş district.
The heart of Istanbul's entertainment area had turned into a battlefield during the late hours of May 31, as security forces staged a merciless crackdown on peaceful protesters who were gathered to denounce the brutal dawn raid against demonstrators occupying Gezi Park.
Major connections leading to Taksim - Sıraselviler, Tarlabaşı, Harbiye and Beşiktaş - as well as İstiklal Avenue were all blocked by the riot police, who fired tear gas without making any distinction between protesters and locals. Two choppers were also circling the skies in the area, while ambulances continuously brought new patients to the hospitals. Dozens of protestors were reported injured by witnesses. Several hotels around the Taksim area provided support to the injured or those who suffered respiratory problems due to tear gas.
939 people in custody in 90 protests
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Muammer Güler said that a total of 939 had been taken in custody in protests. More than 90 demonstration in 48 provinces, including Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Antalya, Konya, Eskişehir and many others have been organized, Güler said.
Some residents in the area banged pots and pans from their homes to protest the government over the crackdown and express support for the protesters in the streets.
Meanwhile İbrahim Kalın, the adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said in his twitter account today that İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş and representatives from Taksim Gazi Park Platform and the Chamber of Architects would meet today and discuss a joint-solution.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Turkey does not want to experience the Germany of 40's in 2013, while responding to journalists in Ankara, before moving to Istanbul for amarch to the Tksim square together with CHP deputies and supporters.
The protesters, who started their mobilization to raise awareness on the demolition of one of the city's last remaining green areas, started chanting for the resignation of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following the police's relentless tear gas campaign.
Twelve protesters were injured during the morning raid, according to the Istanbul's Governor's Office. However, witnesses’ accounts put the number much higher.