Unrest continued in Turkey Wednesday as lawyers joined demonstrations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who met with protesters to try to find a solution:
The embattled premier hosted talks with a small group of activists Wednesday afternoon in a bid to end the standoff, though critics in the streets said the 11-person delegation wasn’t representative of the protesters — and insisted it wouldn’t end the showdown. ¶ Meanwhile, police and protesters retrenched after fierce overnight clashes in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. The protesters say the prime minister is becoming increasingly authoritarian and is trying to force his deep religious views on all Turks, a charge that Erdogan and his allies strongly deny. ¶ In Ankara and Istanbul, thousands of lawyers railed against the alleged rough treatment of dozens of their colleagues, whom police briefly detained in Istanbul on the sidelines of Tuesday’s unrest.
The scene in central Istanbul on Tuesday was chaotic:
Riot police swept into Taksim Square, using water cannons and vast clouds of tear gas to clear away thousands of protesters gathered there to protest what they say are encroachments on their personal liberties. The square had been largely shut to traffic since May 31, when major protests started, but police removed barricades the protesters had erected and stripped a central monument of revolutionary banners. ¶ By midday Wednesday, a light drizzle mixed with the pungent smell of lingering tear gas, and few protesters remained in Taksim Square. Many had retreated to Gezi Park, next to the square, which has been covered with tents and protesters since last week. The protests started over Erdogan’s plans to raze the park, the last major green space in central Istanbul, and replace it with a replica of an Ottoman-era barracks that once stood there. ¶ When the peaceful protest against the development plans was met with riot police deploying tear gas and water cannons, demonstrations quickly expanded to include broader objections to what many protesters describe as a creeping authoritarianism. Protests have been held in dozens of cities across the country.
Erdogan has been unrelenting in his rhetoric toward the protesters, claiming that “provocateurs and terrorists” are involved. Both sides have escalated the tension dramatically since the protests began two weeks ago:
In those first days of protest, the square looked more like an outdoor jazz concert, with urbane young locals lounging in the square’s park and waving signs. ¶ Now, as the above video shows, the square is filled with riot police, trucks blasting water cannons at protesters, tear gas and young, gas mask-wearing demonstrators who looked like they just stepped out of Cairo’s Tahrir Square. That doesn’t mean Turkey’s protest movement is akin to Egypt’s – for starters, Turkey is a democracy that freely elected its current, Islamist government – but it is jarring to see how quickly Taksim has been Tahrirified by protesters and police alike.
See images from the demonstrations below: