Protesters fill police-free Taksim for sixth day of massive protests

Protesters fill police-free Taksim for sixth day of massive protests

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Protesters fill police-free Taksim for sixth day of massive protests

AFP Photo

Demonstrators started to flock to Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square on the sixth day of protests against the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park at around noon today as the atmosphere returned to normalcy without any police presence.

Protests are continuing as peaceful demonstrators cleaned the square voluntarily early in the morning.

Some demonstrators went up to the roof of Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) and hung a Turkish Communist Party (TKP) poster saying, “Don’t surrender,” after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he would demolish the building.

Clashes erupt in Beşiktaş

Clashes have erupted in Istanbul's Beşiktaş district for the second straight night after police used tear gas and water cannon when demonstrators threw rocks at a riot control vehicle and squads, Doğan news agency has reported.

BBC Türkçe reported that protesters had erected barricades around Kabataş, which is near Beşiktaş on the coastal Bosphorus road, along with solidarity protests from citizens who have been banging pots and pans to demonstrate against the government and police.

Taksim peaceful after police withdraw

Thousands of demonstrators flooded the site as police lifted the barricades around the park and began withdrawing from the square late on June 1.

Many people brought the rubbish bags and cleaned all the rubbish on the ground, including tear gas canisters, stones and glass. Many posted pictures of the cleaned square on the microblogging site Twitter. People had souvenir photos taken near the demolished police cars. Some TV cars were also attacked on June 1 night by protesters who were angry with the mainstream media for not devoting sufficient coverage to the protests.

Snacks and water were brought by many volunteers to the park, as others manned a medical station, stoked fires and checked nearby barricades to prevent any return by the police.

Taksim has been peaceful since the night of June 1, but the police officers used tear gas and water cannon against the protesters in Beşiktaş throughout the night of June 1. Many buildings were damaged in protests in İzmir, while many people were detained in protests in Antalya and Mersin that were launched in solidarity with Taksim.

The outcry against the development project in Taksim Square has snowballed into widespread anger across the country, as more than 90 separate demonstrations in 28 provinces took place on May 31 and June 1. Late on June 1, violent clashes broke out in central Ankara’s Güven Park, as police tried to quell protesters with tear gas and water cannon with brutality.

Private television channel Kanal D’s Ankara bureau chief, Erhan Karadağ, was one of many taken into custody in the Tunalı district of the Turkish capital city. He was later released.

Interior Minister Muammer Güler said on June 1 that 53 civilians, 19 of which from Istanbul, and 26 police officers were injured during the violence.

Amnesty International, however, put the number of wounded in the hundreds and said there had been two deaths. Amnesty said some protesters had been left blinded by the massive quantities of tear gas and pepper spray used by police, while at least two people were hit in the head with gas canisters.

Güler said police had detained 939 people as of June 1 evening, but many have been released. More than 100 detained people were released yesterday, according to Anatolia news agency.

“We have learnt our lesson,” Istanbul mayor Kadir Topbaş told NTV news channel on June 1. He said he regretted “not informing the people enough” on the details of the construction project in Taksim, the spark that led to the protests. Police officers who misused tear gas bombs and who are determined to have resorted to excessive force will be prosecuted, Turkey’s Interior Ministry announced in a statement June 1.

President Abdullah Gül has urged “sensitivity and maturity” to calm the five days of tensions. “I believe that everybody will immediately do his share to provide calm and discuss the issue that will suit us,” Gül said in a written statement.