Turkish Protesters Clash With Police Over Government Authoritarianism, Islam Influence

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turkishprotestsFor the second straight day, protesters in Turkey clashed with police as the unrest escalated from outrage over plans to redevelop a popular park in Istanbul to a general attack on the government and  Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who many Turks consider repressive.

As police used tear gas against the protesters, the international community expressed concern.

Erdogan gave an angry speech, insisting that the development in Gezi Park in Taksim Square would proceed as planned. Gezi Park is one of the few remaining green spaces left in Taksim, so the anger over its development has blossomed into the worst scenes of public disorder and police violence seen in Turkey in recent years.

 Police in riot gear squared off against hundreds of protesters who used bricks and paving slabs as weapons. Police drove vehicles into the crowd in an attempt to get protesters to disperse.

Correspondents for the BBC said police also fired a water cannon and tear gas in Taksim Square as demonstrators chanted “unite against fascism” and “government resign.”

An Istanbul resident named Lily told the BBC that “there are 40,000 people crossing the bridge between Asia and Europe today. All the public transport is on lockdown.”

She said that police had dropped tear-gas canisters from helicopters overnight.

“About half-past one, the entire city started to reverberate. People were banging on pots, pans, blowing whistles,” she said.

According to Louise Greenwood of the BBC in Istanbul, police are pulling in officers from places like Antalya, to help stem the violence.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at a park in Ankara and drank alcohol to protest the government’s recent restrictions on its sale and advertising.

“Police were there (Taksim Square) yesterday; they’ll be on duty today and also tomorrow because Taksim Square cannot be an area where extremists are running wild,” Erdogan said in his speech. He accused protesters of using the issue as an excuse to create tension.

There have been postings on Twitter from Turkish residents complaining angrily about the lack of media coverage of the protests.

In Istanbul, officials said a dozen people were admitted to hospitals and more than 60 people detained after Friday’s clashes.

According to observers, the real issue in dispute is unhappiness among young people toward the government and AK Party over what they see as creeping Islamization, as illustrated when the Turkish parliament approved legislation restricting the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks from 22:00 and 06:00 GMT.

 

Erdogan’s AK Party has deep connections to political Islam, but the prime minister has said he is committed to Turkey’s state secularism. Since Erdogan took power in 2002, some in Turkey have complained that his government is becoming increasingly authoritarian.

 

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