Istanbul In Chaos As Turkish Police Attack Protesters With Tear Gas, Water Cannons

  • Turkey Proetest students police 31May2013
    Turkish riot police use tear gas to disperse demonstrators during a protest against the destruction of trees in a park brought about by a pedestrian project, in Taksim Square in central Istanbul May 31, 2013. Reuters
  • Turkey Protest canon 31MAy2013
    A demonstrator is hit by water cannon used by riot police to disperse the crowd during a protest against the destruction of trees in a park brought about by a pedestrian project, in Taksim Square in central Istanbul May 31, 2013. Reuters
  • Turkish Protest
    Istanbul has descended into chaos as Turkish police use tear gas and water cannons to disperse a group of reportedly peaceful anti-government protesters. Reyters
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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.

"Reported death from #geziparki is @keremck. Conflicting reports on cause. Gas, heart attack, traffic. Will check," she tweeted.

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.

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