ISTANBUL — Police sealed Istanbul’s central Taksim Square on Sunday, a day after they cleared it in a tear-gas-filled conclusion to two weeks of anti-government protests in Turkey. Clashes between protesters and the police lasted far into the night around Istanbul and the country, as confrontation prevailed over a compromise that had briefly seemed attainable only hours earlier.
The storming of Taksim Square and adjoining Gezi Park inflamed opposition to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose 10-year rule has been challenged as never before by the demonstrations in dozens of cities across the country. Protesters called Sunday for renewed efforts to march back into the center of Istanbul and also to confront police in their own neighborhoods. Erdogan was also planning a rally on Istanbul’s outskirts later in the day, raising the possibility of direct fights between sides in a city of 13 million.
Turkish activists leading a sit-in were considering a promise Friday by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to let courts, and a potential referendum, decide the fate of an Istanbul park development that has sparked riots.
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Police confronted protesters across Istanbul into the night, using clouds of tear gas and water cannons on crowds as they chased thousands of people out of Istanbul’s center. Authorities shut down ferry and subway service in an apparent effort to limit attempts to make it back to Taksim Square, and service was still restricted on Sunday. Authorities reported that 44 people had been wounded as of early Sunday morning, although an opposition parliamentarian said on Twitter that the number topped 100.
Protest leaders said that Erdogan had destroyed his chances for a dialogue. Erdogan had invited a delegation of protesters into his Ankara home Friday and made concessions substantial enough that some organizers appeared to be considering standing down Saturday and leaving only a symbolic tent behind. But on Sunday, protesters were defiant even after having lost the physical emblem of their movement.
“More people will gather on the streets now,” Eyup Muhcu, one of the protest leaders who met Friday with Erdogan, said by telephone. “We had reached a great chance for dialogue. Now after this violence, he will never find a party to talk to.”
On Sunday, two of the largest unions in Turkey were discussing a general strike. The Carsi soccer fan club, which had participated in the protests, said on Twitter that police were coming to some members’ homes and detaining them.
And there were reports in local media, including videos, of at least two military vehicles alongside the police vehicles clearing protesters from Taksim Square on Saturday. With Turkey’s history of military coups during periods of civil unrest, the apparent coordination between the civilian government and the military was a sign that Erdogan retained control over the armed forces.
Within an hour of a warning from Erdogan that central Istanbul would be cleared by Sunday whether or not protesters left voluntarily, security forces using loudspeakers told people in Taksim and Gezi Park to leave. Hundreds of black-clad riot police wearing gas masks started to rush the park, using tear gas and water cannons to chase protesters from the area. Remaining was a mess of soggy tents, banners and debris that sanitation workers quickly moved to clear. The park had turned into a symbol of defiance against Erdogan, who wants to build a replica of an Ottoman-era barracks on the site.