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article imageTurkish Prime Minister vows to expel 'lawbreakers' from park

By Layne Weiss     Jun 13, 2013 in World
Ankara - Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayipp Erdogan has called on "lawbreakers" camped out at Gezi Park and Taksim Square to leave or "be removed."
The Prime Minister is determined to end nearly two weeks of protests, which have put an unflattering spotlight on his country. "We are running out of patience," he told members of the capital, Ankara, Thursday. "I am making this warning for one last time."
He then commented that Gezi Park "reeks" and that it was "high time" for police to clear it out. "It stinks of pee." Erdogan said that some of the protestors have even taken care of further bathroom needs in the park.
Police have repeatedly fire water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas at protests who have refused to leave the premises. Five people have died and 5,000 people have been injured. The government said 600 officers have also been injured, The Associated Press reports.
Erdogan has lashed on the rowdy protestors whom he's referred to as "vagabonds" and "thugs," and he has even called on the peaceful protestors not to complain about his police officers for using tear gas. It is unfortunate that some of these protestors have been hit by tear gas, and Erdogan is not insensitive to those who have died, but a lot of these protestors have been standing right in the line of tear gas fire by associating themselves with the wrong people, CNN reports.
"This square belongs to the people of Istanbul, the people of the whole country, and to all international visitors. So we cannot allow lawbreakers to hang around freely in the square," Erdogan told party leaders. "We will clean the square," he said according to the Associated Press.
Gezi Park is an area inside Taksim Square filled with Sycamore trees. It is one of the few green areas left in central Istanbul. Many have compared it with Tahrir Square, which was the focus of the demonstrations which led to President Hosni Mubarak's ousting in 2011.
Protestors claim that revamping the park would be like commercial takeover in New York's Central Park or London's Hyde Park.
The government's redevelopment plans include making the parking more pedestrian friendly and easing traffic around Taksim Square. This would mean that much of the trees in Gezi Park would be replaced by concrete, which has angered many, hence the weeks of protest, BBC News reports.
Potential negotiations between Erdogan and protestors fell apart Wednesday, CNN reports.
Taksim Square was also the site of protests on May Day after Erdogan rejected the union's demands to celebrate there. Protestors were sprayed with tear gas in this case too.
Experts and human rights groups say Erdogan's government is certainly lagging when it comes to matters of human rights and freedom of expression by its opponents, CNN reports.
Chances of these protests stopping anytime soon look grim.
More about gezi park, Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime minister, Protestors
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