Calm on Turkish streets after days of fierce protests

Protesters fumed against government plans to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks in a venue for political demonstrations.

June 2, 2013 13:25
1 minute read.
Demonstrators shout slogans during an anti-government protest in Istanbul, June 1

Turkish anti-government protest 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Shopkeepers and municipal workers began cleaning the streets of Istanbul and Ankara on Sunday after the fiercest anti-government demonstrations in years.

Pockets of die-hard demonstrators lit bonfires and scuffled with police overnight but the streets were much quieter after two days of clashes in which almost a thousand people were arrested and hundreds were injured.

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The unrest was triggered by protests against government plans to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks to house shops or apartments in Taksim, long a venue for political demonstrations.

But it has widened into a broader show of defiance against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

On Sunday rain appeared to keep the crowds away from Istanbul's central Taksim Square, where the protests originated, but did not dampen the spirit of a small group of protesters who remained huddled around a bonfire.

Rubble littered the square after days of stand-off between the protesters and Turkish riot police who fired tear gas and water cannon and played cat-and-mouse with them on side streets.

Shopkeepers scrubbed anti-government graffiti off walls. Slogans were also sprayed on burnt-out vehicles including a police car and a bus.

There were calls on social media for further protests on Sunday both in Istanbul and the capital Ankara but it was unclear how many people would turn out.

"We will stay until the end," said Akin, who works in motor trade and has been in Taksim for the past four days.

"We are not leaving. The only answer now is for this government to fall. We are tired of this oppressive government constantly putting pressure on us. This is no longer about these trees," he said, referring to Taksim's Gezi Park which became the focal point of the protests.

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