Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan staged his own rally in Istanbul Sunday, drawing tens of thousands of supporters, after his police used tear gas, bulldozers, and water cannons on Saturday to clear out the disputed Gezi Park and Taksim Square, the epicenters of weeks of protest against his rule, AFP reported.
On Saturday, Erdoğan threatened protesters with violence if they didn't clear out voluntarily. "Let me put it clearly: Empty Taksim. If it is not evacuated, this country's security forces know how to evacuate there," he said to a crowd of supporters. The BBC reported that police had also blocked off a bridge over the Bosphorus to stop people from reaching Taksim Square.
The Taksim Solidarity Group, an opposition alliance, called police actions a "brutal attack" that left dozens injured. The group has vowed to continue protesting, despite having announced a deal with Erdoğan early Thursday morning to halt the planned development of a shopping mall on Gezi Park, pending a review by a court. The Gezi plan was the spark for nationwide demonstrations against the Islamic-leaning government.
At his own rallies on Saturday and Sunday, Erdoğan vowed to "crush his opponents" in next year's elections, Reuters said. Erdoğan says his rallies are to drum up support for the elections, but they are widely seen as a show up strength against the Gezi protesters.
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