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article imageUnrest flares in Turkey; riot police storm Istanbul’s Taksim Park

By Abdul Kuddus     Jun 11, 2013 in World
Istanbul - After almost two weeks of anti-government protests that gripped major cities in Turkey, riot police once again tried to regain control of Taksim Square on Tuesday—the focal point of unrest in Istanbul.
Police forced their way through barricades at Taksim Square, firing tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets at hundreds of protesters, the BBC reported.
Protesters threw stones, fireworks and firebombs at police. As police tried to clear Taksim Park, most protesters fled into the adjacent Gezi Park, where hundreds have camped to prevent a redevelopment project.
The unrest began after a police crackdown on protesters trying to prevent the redevelopment of Gezi Park. It then widened into mass unrest with protesters accusing Erdogan and his Justice and Development (AKP) party of becoming increasingly authoritarian and attempting to impose conservative Islamic values on a secular Turkey.
Three people have died since the protests began. At least 5,000 people have been reported hurt during clashes with riot police, and thousands arrested during the two weeks of unrest.
Erdogan, while defending the police intervention in Taksim Park, said that an environmental movement had been hijacked by people whose intent is to harm Turkey, the BBC reported.
"They say the prime minister is rough. So what was going to happen? Were we going to kneel down in front of these [people]?"
"If you call this roughness, I'm sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won't change,” he added in a televised speech.
Erdogan accused the demonstrators of deliberately trying to damage Turkey's image and economy.
The attempt by police to clear Taksim Square came after Mr. Erdogan offered to meet with anti-government protesters Wednesday.
In a defiant note Erdogan resolved to quell the protests saying his patience is running out.
"But for those who want to continue with the incidents I say: 'It's over.' As of now we have no tolerance for them."
"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," he continued.
Riot police briefly entered the park but withdrew back into Taksim Square when they were confronted by protesters, according to Reuters.
Earlier police removed banners that were hung on buildings overlooking Taksim Square and replaced them with the Turkish national flag and a portrait of Kemal Ataturk—the founder of the Turkish secular state.
Reportedly, the police action in Taksim Square could jeopardise Erdogan’s decision to meet the protesters Wednesday. The announcement by Erdogan was perceived by the protesters as an olive branch to break the deadlock.
Reacting to the police action in Taksim Square, Seyyit Cikmen, 19, one of the protesters said:
"This movement won't end here. We've started something much bigger than this park ... After this, I don't think people will go back to being afraid of this government or any government."
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