Saturday 20 January 2018

Riot police smash Turkish protests

A petrol bomb explodes in front of riot policemen during clashes in Taksim square in Istanbul, Turkey (AP)
A petrol bomb explodes in front of riot policemen during clashes in Taksim square in Istanbul, Turkey (AP)
Journalists surround a protester who tried to stop a police water cannon in Taksim Square in Istanbul (AP)
Turkish protesters try to stop a police water cannon during clashes at Taksim Square in Istanbul (AP)
A protester throws a petrol bomb towards riot policemen during clashes in Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey (AP)
Smaller protests occurred in Ankara with about 5,000 people demonstrating (AP)

Riot police firing tear gas and water cannons have re-entered Istanbul's Taksim Square after defiant protesters swarmed back in by the thousands.

It was the latest sign that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government may have run out of patience after 12 days of unrest in Turkey's largest city and beyond.

Earlier in the day, he accused the protesters of sullying Turkey's image, raising the possibility that he had ordered police to show no restraint in clearing Taksim Square.

In the chaos of a confrontation, several fires burned in the square and protesters exploded fireworks, threw stones and waved banners.

As a phalanx of helmeted officers moved forward, water cannons doused a man in a wheelchair carrying a Turkish flag. Plain clothes officers in gas masks yanked down banners.

For the police, the marching orders appeared to be: fire tear gas, advance, spray water cannons and peel back. Then, after the tear gas dissipated in the wind, the protesters again stepped into the void - clanging fences, shooting fireworks, and erecting makeshift barricades. At one point, they set alight a huge bonfire in the middle of the square.

Riot police officers gather in central Ankara June 10, 2013. Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to meet on Wednesday with leaders of the movement whose peaceful protests in Istanbul spiralled into a wave of anti-government demonstrations across Turkey. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (TURKEY - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)
Riot police officers gather in central Ankara June 10, 2013. Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to meet on Wednesday with leaders of the movement whose peaceful protests in Istanbul spiralled into a wave of anti-government demonstrations across Turkey. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (TURKEY - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)
Turkish riot police secure the area during a protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul June 11, 2013. Riot police fired water cannon and teargas at hundreds of protesters in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Tuesday, Reuters witnesses said, entering the square for the first time since demonstrations against plans to develop a park there turned violent. REUTERS/Osman Orsal (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
A petrol bomb explodes in front of riot policemen during clashes in Taksim square in Istanbul, Turkey (AP)
Turkish riot police secure the area during a protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul June 11, 2013. Riot police fired water cannon and teargas at hundreds of protesters in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Tuesday, Reuters witnesses said, entering the square for the first time since demonstrations against plans to develop a park there turned violent. REUTERS/Osman Orsal (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
An anti-government protester with a Guy Fawkes mask behind his head smokes a cigarette as he cleans his eyes after being hit with tear gas while riot police return to their position after chasing protesters in central Ankara June 11, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
An anti-government protester throws stones at riot police in central Ankara June 10, 2013. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to meet on Wednesday with leaders of the movement whose peaceful protests in Istanbul spiralled into a wave of anti-government demonstrations across Turkey. The protests have shaken the predominanty Muslim country's image as a stable democracy in a turbulent region and as a vibrant emerging market for investors. Three people have been killed and about 5,000 hurt. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
Journalists surround a protester who tried to stop a police water cannon in Taksim Square in Istanbul (AP)
Turkish protesters try to stop a police water cannon during clashes at Taksim Square in Istanbul (AP)

Several people were being placed into ambulances during the clashes, which have trained an international spotlight on Turkey's democracy. The protests have swelled from a peaceful demonstration first aimed to stop developers from cutting down trees in a park into nationwide disturbances.

Earlier, many of the protesters in Istanbul had fled into the adjacent Gezi Park, where hundreds have been camping out to stop developers from cutting down trees in the park. As police moved in, bulldozers began demolishing the barricades and the makeshift shelters.

At the same time, Mr Erdogan made it clear in Ankara, the capital, that he had come to the end of his patience with the protesters.

"To those who ... are at Taksim and elsewhere taking part in the demonstrations with sincere feelings, I call on you to leave those places and to end these incidents, and I send you my love. But for those who want to continue with the incidents I say: 'It's over'. As of now we have no tolerance for them," Mr Erdogan said.

Press Association

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