Labor unions in Turkey called a nationwide strike on Monday to protest against Turkish police stepping up crackdown on protesters, leading to clashes over the weekend near Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the focal point of two weeks of street demonstrations.
The Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions, or KESK, and Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions, or DISK, two of Turkey’s largest labor movements, urged members to walk off the job on Monday afternoon and gather at the square, news reports said.
“Our demand is for police violence to end immediately,” KESK spokesman Baki Cinar told the Agence France-Presse.
On Sunday, riot police fired tear gas after cordoning off streets surrounding the square and adjoining Gezi Park to prevent protesters from converging, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed a crowd of thousands of his supporters a few kilometers away, Associated Press reported.
Erdogan accused businesses and foreign media, along with extremist groups, of inciting protests and issued a stern warning against participating or encouraging participation in protests.
The prime minister said the protests were “nothing more than the minority's attempt to dominate the majority,” adding: “We could not have allowed this and we will not allow it.”
He denied the criticism that he has been acting like a dictator and vowed to “identify one by one those who have terrorized the streets,” BBC reported.
Escalating clashes between police and protesters, coupled with the labor union strike, weakened Turkey’s lira since the loss suffered on June 10, while Turkey’s financial markets remain volatile, Bloomberg reported.
Turkish Medical Association said on Sunday, after a meeting of unions in the capital, Ankara, that more than 11,000 people were exposed to tear gas in the week through June 15 and warned of the dangers of extensive use of such harmful chemicals on people. Medical officials said an estimated 5,000 people have been injured and four killed since the protests began on May 31, against the redevelopment of Gezi Park and soon escalated into a full-blown nationwide movement seeking Erdogan’s resignation.
Associations representing doctors, engineers and dentists have voiced support for Monday’s strike.
Police lockdown on Taksim Square was in place on Monday, although a subway station at the square that was closed on Sunday had been reopened.
In Ankara, thousands of protesters were attacked with tear gas and water cannons on Sunday overnight, AP reported.
Scores of protesters were detained in Istanbul and Ankara on Sunday, BBC reported citing local media.