Thousands of demonstrators in Istanbul smashed and overturned police cars and other vehicles overnight, using the wreckage to scrawl graffiti or seek shelter as violent anti-government protests entered a fourth day.
“From now on, the people will be taken into account,” said Cemil Ardic, 30, as he sat in the driver’s seat of a ruined police car in Taksim square today while fellow protestors slept inside an abandoned police minibus. “The prime minister was asking what we want. We want justice. We want democracy. We want our freedom.”
Protesters in Istanbul said today and yesterday that they’re reacting to oppression by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, including limits on alcohol sales and marketing last week, his refusal to allow labor unions to rally in Taksim on May Day, and the jailing of hundreds of military officers, academics, journalists and lawyers on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.
The protests, which began over a government project to redevelop a park near Taksim square in central Istanbul, have spread to dozens of Turkish cities as police crackdowns fuel further anger. More than 90 protests took place in 48 cities, leaving 53 citizens and 26 police officers injured, Interior Minister Muammer Guler told reporters late yesterday. Activists used social media sites to organize gatherings amid muted local-media coverage.
Guler said one of 19 people hospitalized in Istanbul was in intensive care. Erdogan ordered an investigation into use of force by police who fired pepper-gas canisters at stone-throwing protesters.
Thousands of protestors poured on to the streets and reoccupied Gezi Park, the city’s central common, yesterday after the government ordered the police to withdraw following violent clashes. The police retreat from the park and nearby Taksim Square came as supporters of the opposition Republican People’s Party marched on the square.
A court order stopped construction of a sidewalk at the park, where Erdogan yesterday said that a replica of an Ottoman army barracks will be rebuilt, possibly including a shopping mall or a city museum. The plan is among events that sparked the revolt.
The crowds celebrated the withdrawal of police from the area throughout the night, dancing and shouting slogans.
“Shoulder to shoulder against Tayyip,” the crowd shouted yesterday, referring to Erdogan, as youths dragged away metal barriers that had been erected around the park and blocked streets near luxury hotels.
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