Turkish protesters return to Taksim, clash with cops

Police fire teargas, water cannons to disperse demonstrators looking to re-ignite protests against Erogan's government.

July 6, 2013 19:18
2 minute read.
People sleep at Taksim Square, June 10, 2013

Taksim Square protesters370. (photo credit: Reuters)

ISTANBUL - Turkish police fired teargas and water cannons to disperse protesters in a central Istanbul square on Saturday as they gathered to enter a park that was the center of anti-government protests last month.

The Taksim Solidarity Platform, combining an array of political groups, had called for a march to enter the sealed off Gezi park, but the governor of Istanbul warned any such gathering would be confronted by the police.

A police crackdown on a group protesting against the planned redevelopment of Gezi Park, a leafy corner of Taksim, triggered a nationwide wave or protest last month against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, accused by his critics of becoming increasingly authoritarian after a decade in power.

Turkish Halk TV footage showed protesters at Taksim square, standing in front of riot police displaying a court decision on cancellation of plans for a replica Ottoman-era barracks on Istanbul's Taksim Square. The plan is backed by Erdogan.

Authorities can appeal against the court ruling, which was considered a victory for the protesters and a blow for Erdogan, who stood fast against protests and riots he said were stoked by terrorists and looters.

Erdogan has carried out sweeping changes since he was elected in 2002 at the head of a party combining nationalists and reformers as well as Islamist elements. He had curbed the power of an army that had toppled four governments in 40 years and carried out some liberal social and economic reforms.

But critics, outside the party and some within, had grown increasingly uneasy at what they felt to be an authoritarian style. At the height of the protests he appeared to appeal increasingly to the Islamist and nationalist core of his party, further alienating secularists and other groups.

Four people were killed and some 7,500 wounded in the police crackdown, according to the Turkish Medical Association. It largely ended when police cleared a protest camp on the square on June 15.

Istanbul governor Huseyn Avni Mutlu said the authorities had not given permission for the rally.

"Our constitution allows staging demonstrations without giving notification, but the legislation says that applying to the authorities for permission is mandatory," Mutlu said, announcing on his twitter account that the Gezi Park would be open to public on Sunday.

"I cannot act against the law. So we won't allow these gatherings."

Government officials have accused a number of artists, journalists and members of the business community of being part of a conspiracy to topple the government.

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