Turkish Police Break Up Gezi Park Protests
Turkish riot police broke up a large anti-government protest in Istanbul on Saturday, using tear gas and water canons to disperse the protesters.
An umbrella protest group called Taksim Solidarity had called for a march on Gezi park, which was previously sealed off by authorities after massive protests in the park and neighbouring Taksim Square.
“We are going to our park to open its doors to its real owners … We are here and we will stay here … We have not given up our demands,” they said.
The governor of Istanbul, however, denied permission to the protest and warned that attempts to enter the park would be met by police force.
“They can use Gezi Park as they wish, without gathering or demonstrating there … If there is an illegal demonstration or march, of course we will intervene by using water cannons,” Interior Minister Muammer Guler said.
The area around Gezi park and Taksim square has been a focal point for anti-government protests since May, when a demonstration against plans for the commercial development of the park where broken up forecefully by police. Much of the protesters anger has been directed against Prime Minister Erdogan, who they claim has become dictatorial and has attempted to replace the country’s long held secular traditions with his own Islamist principles.