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article imageErdogan begins crackdowns against Turkish protesters Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     Jun 11, 2013 in World
Istanbul - In a pre-dawn raid, police drove protesters out of Taksim square in Istanbul as Prime Minister Erdogan rallies his supporters, arrests lawyers, and issues threats.
For the past few days, Turkish protesters enjoyed some relative peace as police largely left them alone to occupy Taksim Square and Gezi Park in Istanbul. Gezi Park even became a cultural center that featured live musicians, children painting pictures, students camping out in tents, and bystanders selling flags, face masks, and water bottles.
That changed this morning when throngs of police dressed in riot gear attacked Taksim Square and drove out protesters with rubber bullets and water canons. The police used so much tear gas that commuters and local residents had to take cover. As police moved in, bulldozers destroyed protesters' makeshift baracades. To make matters worse, elements of trouble-makers (who many believe are really serving the Ak Party) hurled fireworks and molotov cocktails at the police, further giving Prime Minister Erdogan reason to call the protesters "marauders" and "terrorists." However, most protesters were peaceful and remained in Gezi Park, close to Taksim Square.
Many people in Taksim Square were rushed on stretchers to make-shift first aid areas set up by protesters, before being taken to hospitals in ambulances. Four people have died in the protests that began May 31, and 5000 people have been injured. The most recent casualty was a man who died from a heart attack after being exposed to too much tear gas.
Since his return from Africa, Erdogan has taken a hard stance against the protesters, though he plans to meet with some of them tomorrow. He ordered them to stop protesting and abandon Gezi Park, affirming that he will go ahead with his plans to demolish it. He issued this warning to the protesters:
"Not only will we end the actions, we will be at the necks of the provocateurs and terrorists and no one will get away with it."
Erdogan also ordered the arrests today of 50 Istanbul lawyers who support the protesters.
When a large AK Party group met Erdogan at the Istanbul airport, they chanted, "Lead us to Gezi Park. We will crush them!" Erdogan, basking in the adoration, went so far as to call rallies of his supporters this weekend. Protesters throughout Turkey are calling for a halt in Erdogan's Islamist policies and restrictions on freedom, not just the saving of trees. More demonstrations are planned in Istanbul, Ankara, and all over Turkey, including tonight at 7:00 p.m. in Gezi Park. The stage is set for conflict as freedom in Turkey becomes more at risk than ever.
"I never went to a political rally before," one university student told me. "However, I have been going to the protests with all my friends. We send messages via Twitter. Erdogan is so out of touch with reality that he calls Twitter a 'menace.' On Facebook, we post our status as "Çapulcu" (marauder). Erdogan needs to listen to the young people of Turkey. After all, we are the future."
Students march through Antalya  carrying homemade banners and shouting freedom slogans
Students march through Antalya, carrying homemade banners and shouting freedom slogans
A group of students peacefully celebrate with flags in Turkey
A group of students peacefully celebrate with flags in Turkey
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