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'Occupy Taksim Park': Protesters tear-gassed in Istanbul, Turkey

By Anne Sewell     May 30, 2013 in World
Istanbul - For three days, protesters have been resisting against the demolition of Taksim's Gezi Park in the heart of Istanbul, for a shopping mall to be built. Police cracked down with tear gas. (Video update)
The new Occupy Taksim Park movement is protesting against what they call the illegal destruction of the park in the center of Istanbul. They have been attempting to stop workers from cutting down the trees in the park.
A group of protesters, who just spent a third night in the park in an attempt to halt the controversial demolition awoke to clouds of tear gas, fired by the police at 5 am on Wednesday morning.
A young university student was hospitalized after the attack and underwent successful surgery today after being attacked by police during the dawn raid. Hazar Berk Büyüktunca received injuries to his ears and genital area during the altercation with the police.
The hospital reports that his situation is stable but he could remain in hospital for a couple of days.
The video below shows the attack on the university student:
Now it seems the actions by the police may have backfired, as more and more people joined the crowds and larger demonstrations are being planned.
Not to be daunted by the use of tear gas by the police, protesters are now manufacturing their own, handmade gas masks. They diagonally cut large, 2.5 liter plastic bottles, place an air pollution mask inside, and join the whole thing together with elastic. An image showing one of these handmade gas masks can be seen here.
They have also put instruction signs on the trees, telling people how to handle the effects of the teargas and how to protect themselves.
Police used a mass incident intervention vehicle (TOMA) to disperse the protesters from the park before seizing their tents. As demonstrators tried to stop the civilian police, some of their tents were burned.
After the attack by the police, the demolition vehicles carried on with their work. One demonstrator lay in front of a vehicle, but was forcibly removed.
Protesters do intend to carry on with their attempts to protect the park and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Istanbul Deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder stood in front of the bulldozers and managed to halt the demolition of the park at around 8 am in the morning. This is his second day of protesting the demolition of the park.
However, despite the protests, Forestry and Waterworks Minister Veysel Eroğlu said that Gezi Park is a small area with a limited number of trees. He apparently vowed to plant "a hundred times more trees than are cut" in Gezi Park, elsewhere in the city.
According to Eroğlu, they have decided to plant 5 million trees in Istanbul, and that even the historical artifacts in the park will be removed and protected during the demolition.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan commented on the protest by saying that the government has made its decision on the demolition and there will be no U-turn in this regard.
Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Gürsel Tekin responded saying he was going to file a criminal complaint against Erdoğan regarding his remarks.
“The prime minister has no power over deciding about a city in no [sic] legal system in the world,” he said.
Tekin told İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş, “You can't just destroy a city based on the request of a dictator. I call on Mr. President to act.”
More photos of the protest can be viewed here.
Taksim's Gezi Park, taken in March 2013:
İstanbul: Taksim Gezi Park
İstanbul: Taksim Gezi Park
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