Demonstrators Turn Deaf Ear To Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Call For Cessation Of Protests

Turkish Riot Police-June 1, 2013
Turkish riot police deploy tear gas to disperse demonstrators during an anti-government protest at Taksim Square in central Istanbul Saturday. Reuters

Clashes between demonstrators and police continued in Turkey for a third day Sunday, although the streets of the country’s capital city Ankara and its largest city Istanbul were quieter than they were on the previous two days of anti-government protests, according to Reuters.

Turkey’s Interior Ministry noted Saturday that authorities have arrested 939 people at more than 90 demonstrations across the country that had their origin in a government plan to turn green space in Istanbul’s Taksim Square into commercial/residential space, according to BBC News. The unrest has since widened into a show of dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party.

Riot police have fired pepper spray, tear gas and water cannon at protesters, and dozens of injuries have been reported. The harsh police strategy and tactics have been criticized by the European Union, the U.S. and human-rights groups. “The use of violence by police on this scale appears designed to deny the right to peaceful protest altogether and to discourage others from taking part,” said John Dalhuisen, the director of the Europe and Central Asia program at Amnesty International.

Erdogan called for an immediate end to the demonstrations, while saying his government will investigate claims the police have used excessive force, Reuters said.

Adopting a combative stance in a televised address Saturday, the prime minister said of his political opponents: “If this is about holding meetings, if this is a social movement, where they gather 20, I will get up and gather 200,000 people. Where they gather 100,000, I will bring together one million from my party.” He also warned the primary opposition Republican People’s Party against exacerbating tensions during the current protests.

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