As anti-government protests that began on May 28 continued in Istanbul on June 11, hundreds of riot police breached barricades set up by protesters in the Turkish city’s Taksim Square, using non-lethal weapons such as tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons to control the area. The protests started as a demonstration against the replacement of Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park with a reconstruction of the historic Taksim Military Barracks, then morphed into larger protests and riots across Turkey against what many regard as the authoritarian rule of Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his elected government.
In the aftermath of the brief police occupation of the square, it appeared that their actions toward the protesters occupying the park were moderate. Police left the park after about 10 minutes and made no attempt to dismantle the tents or makeshift shelters set up by the demonstrators, although they did remove protesters' banners from a building overlooking the square.
An AP report stated that Erdogan asserted that the protests were part of a conspiracy against his government. The protesters, he said, “are being used by some financial institutions, the interest rate lobby and media groups to [harm] Turkey's economy and [scare away] investments.”
Erdogan gave a televised speech condemning the protesters and vowing that “where they gather 20, I will get up and gather 200,000 people. Where they gather 100,000, I will bring together one million from my party.”
A report from Reuters also quoted Erdogan’s reaction to the protests:
They say the prime minister is rough. So what was going to happen? Were we going to kneel down in front of these [people]? If you call this roughness, I’m sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won’t change.
The Reuters report cited Erdogan’s statement that the protests are being engineered by vandals, terrorist elements, and unnamed foreign forces.
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Photo of protestors in Taksim Square: AP Images