Images and videos coming out of Turkey on Friday depict a central Istanbul that has descended into chaos as police in riot gear and gas masks attempt to disperse a group of reportedly peaceful protesters with tear gas canister launchers, vehicle-mounted water cannons and other violent means. The decision to break up the protest came on the fourth day after hundreds set up an encampment associated with the Occupy movement in the Turkish capital's Taksim Gezi Park.
The protest is aimed at stopping a massive redevelopment project that would convert the park in the city's center into a shopping mall, CNN reported. Demonstrators were also speaking out against the government under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a moderate Islamist regime, that passed a law last week to restrict alcohol advertising and sales, Al Jazeera reported.
At least 12 people sustained trauma injuries during the clashes, Istanbul Medical Chamber board member Huseyin Demirduzen told Reuters, and hundreds more were dealing with respiratory problems related to the tear gas.
In addition, Princeton University fellow Zeynep Tufekci reported that an activist named Kerem Can Karakaş died during the crackdown.
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The protest is associated with the global Occupy movement and is being organized via social media under the hashtag #OccupyGezi in English, as well as in Turkish and other languages.
The crackdown began at dawn Friday, targeting folks who were gathered in a park that had been a site of peaceful protests in the democratic nation for years, according to Reuters.
Police in gas masks and riot gear, who can be seen on a live video stream of the protest's break-up, attacked protesters in the square and on side streets. A number of protesters were injured when a wall they were attempting to scale during a police chase collapsed, according to Al Jazeera, which added that police were firing tear gas "indiscriminately."
Erdogan responded to the protesters by refusing to budge on the move to redevelop the park, saying it will move forward "no matter what [the demonstrators] do," according to Al Jazeera, which was reporting from the scene on Friday.