Despite Protests, Turkey Vows to Push Ahead With Plans for Square

Sedat Suna/European Pressphoto Agency

A riot police officer fired a tear gas grenade on Saturday to disperse demonstrators during a rally against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul.

ISTANBUL — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey called for an immediate end on Saturday to the fiercest antigovernment demonstrations in years, as protesters clashed with riot police in here for a second day.

Mr. Erdogan vowed to push ahead with the redevelopment of a park in Taksim Square in Istanbul, the city’s equivalent of Tahrir Square in Cairo, with a replica Ottoman-era army barracks that would house a shopping mall.

Police officers fired tear gas and water cannons to prevent crowds of protesters chanting “unite against fascism” and “government resign” from reaching Taksim, where hundreds were injured in clashes on Friday.

Protesters also clashed with the police in the Besiktas neighborhood after walking across a road bridge over the Bosporus in another apparent effort to reach the square.

“Every four years we hold elections and this nation makes its choice,” Mr. Erdogan said in a speech broadcast on television.

“Those who have a problem with government’s policies can express their opinions within the framework of law and democracy,” he said “I am asking the protesters to immediately end these actions.”

The protest at Taksim’s Gezi Park started late on Monday after trees were torn up under the redevelopment plan, but has widened into a broader demonstration against the prime minister and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party.

Emergency medical workers said close to 1,000 people were injured in the clashes in Istanbul on Friday. Half a dozen lost eyes after being hit by gas canisters, the Turkish Doctors’ Association said.

The United States State Department said it was concerned by the number of injuries, while Amnesty International and the European Parliament raised concern about excessive use of police force. Interior Minister Muammer Guler said accusations that police officers had used disproportionate force would be investigated.

Protests erupted in the capital, Ankara, and the Aegean coastal city of Izmir late on Friday and there were calls on social media for similar demonstrations in more than a dozen cities on Saturday.

 

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