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Turkish police fire water cannon at rally against ‘Internet censorship’ law

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RT | January 18, 2014

Police used water cannon and fired teargas to disperse hundreds of protesters that gathered in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square on Saturday for a rally calling against a bill that would tighten government control over the Internet.

Protesters ran to the side streets to escape the water cannons and teargas that police used on the peaceful demonstration.

Smaller rallies have been held around Turkey including the capital Ankara and coastal city of Izmir.

In Ankara about 300 protesters gathered chanting slogans opposing the government and the internet bill, calling the Turkish prime minister ‘a dictator.’

Activists have called for protests against the law further limiting the use of the Internet and social media. The campaign is circulating the internet with the hashtag #sansüredurde (#StopInternetCensorshipinTurkey).

The bill that includes the controversial law was adopted on Thursday. It gives the courts power to remove material that “violates individual rights” from the internet. People will be able to apply to the state Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) as well as the courts to block any websites.

Under the new law 26 government officials in Turkey can also block access to information online by a personal decree. These include the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his cabinet and other officials.

Critics argued that the law will enhance monitoring internet user’s activities and will allow officials to limit keywords, local Hurriyet daily reported. The newspaper added that the head of TİB will now be given enough authority to directly limit access, pending a court ruling.

January 18, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkish court cancels plan to redevelop Istanbul’s Taksim Square

Press TV – July 3, 2013

A Turkish court has blocked a redevelopment project for Istanbul’s Taksim Square after the country was rocked by four weeks of anti-government protests.

The court ruling is seen as a big blow to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had strongly backed the project, but is also seen as a victory for the opposition that has been staging nationwide rallies against it.

Istanbul has been the epicenter of anti-government demonstrations since May 31, when the police broke up a sit-in staged at Taksim Square to protest against the redevelopment plan which involved the demolition of Gezi Park.

The Turkish protesters said Gezi Park, which is a traditional gathering point for rallies and demonstrations as well as a popular tourist destination, is one of Istanbul’s last public green spaces.

The protests soon spread to other cities across the country and turned into calls for the resignation of the Turkish prime minister.

Several people have been killed in the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, who Erdogan has described as foreign-backed extremists and terrorists.

Last week, Turkish artists, journalists, and authors placed full-page advertisements in several newspapers, asking Erdogan to stop using divisive language.

On June 24, Erdogan praised the “legendary heroism” of police forces in quelling anti-government protests.

The Turkish prime minister has faced international condemnation for his handling of the crisis. Turkish police have been also strongly criticized for using excessive force against the peaceful protests.

July 3, 2013 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Comments Off on Turkish court cancels plan to redevelop Istanbul’s Taksim Square

Turkish government combing Twitter in search of protest organizers to arrest

RT | June 29, 2013

Turkish government officials are investigating Twitter and similar social media platforms in an attempt to identify and eventually prosecute the organizers of mass demonstrations, Erodgan administration officials said this week.

In the latest attack on social media’s role in protests, the country’s Transportation and Communications Minister Binali Yildirim called on social media networks on Friday to cooperate with authorities in the probe.

“Yes to the Internet … but an absolute no to its misuse as a tool for crimes, violence, chaos and disorder,” Yildirim said quoted as saying by the local Dogan news agency.

Authorities have scoured social networks searching for protest leaders since national unrest began on May 28 at a rally in Instanbul’s Taksim Square. Police have turned over at least 35 names to prosecutors in the city, according to Turkey’s Aksam newspaper.

It is illegal to ‘insult’ public officials in Turkey.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag acknowledged the existence of the list, the Associated Press reported, only saying ‘profanities and insults conducted electronically’ had contributed to the protests.

‘Crimes determined as such by the law don’t change if they are carried out through Facebook, Twitter or through other electronic means,’ he said. ‘No one has the right to commit crimes under the rule of law.’

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has taken international criticism for the brutal police crackdown on protesters in the past month. The prime minister himself, when the rallies began, branded Twitter a ‘troublemaker’ used to spread ‘lies.’

What began as a protest against the redevelopment of Istanbul’s historic Gezi Park morphed into a national movement calling for a pluralistic society instead of Erdogan’s ‘authoritarian’ rule. The prime minister has also lost support for what critics say has been an attempt to impose Islamist values on a largely secular population.

He previously banned YouTube for two years beginning in 2008, citing the widespread presence of obscene material.

Erdogan’s deputies expressed hope that Facebook would allow them to comb through data and identify possible demonstration organizers. Facebook released a statement this week denying the disclosure, though, of any information to the government and expressing concern about future requests.

‘We will be meeting with representatives of the Turkish government when they visit Silicon Valley this week, and we intend to communicate our strong concerns about these proposals directly at that that time,’ Facebook said in a statement.

Turkish Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Binali Yildirim added that Twitter has not shown a ‘positive approach’ despite ‘necessary warnings’ from Turkey. He said that the Turkish government has asked Twitter, along with other social media sites, to set up a representative office inside the country.

‘We have told all social media that… if you operate in Turkey you must comply with Turkish law… When information is requested, we want to see someone in Turkey who can provide this… there needs to be an interlocutor we can put our grievance to and who can correct an error if there is one,’ he said.

‘Twitter will probably comply too. Otherwise, this is a situation that cannot be sustained,’ Yildirim stressed. His statement was presumably referring to social media’s role in the recent protests, though the social media companies themselves have had no role. He added that the government seeks only to ‘turn down the volume of the social media,’ rather than blocking it altogether.

June 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Turkish government combing Twitter in search of protest organizers to arrest

Turkey announces plans ‘for gas’ and cyber security in face of Gezi protests

RT | June 20, 2013

Turkey has announced plans to purchase 100,000 gas bomb cartridges and launch a central cyber security agency, local media report. This comes after protests across the country which also saw a series of attacks on government websites.

The order for the 100,000 new cartridges will be accompanied by an order for 60 water cannon vehicles, the daily local newspaper Milliyet reported, also stating that the excessive use of gas bomb cartridges meant that Turkish riot police used up some 130,000 units across the space of a mere 20 days.

The protests began in Istanbul, but nationwide demonstrations shortly followed suit, drawing thousands in support of the Gezi Park protesters suffering brutal police repressions. In one of the instances, a horrifying video emerged of a man in a wheelchair being fired at by a similar [water canon] vehicle on June 11.

“The excessive use of force by the police has turned this issue into a security one,” said Galip Dalay, a research assistant with the SETA foundation.

At the same time, Turkish Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Binali Yildirim announced the formation of a new cyber security agency on Thursday. He declared “The Center for Response to National Cyber Threats,” (or USOM) was to be founded on the grounds that cyber-attacks during the Gezi Park protests were a global threat and “likely to increase.”

At the beginning of June, Anonymous hacking group launched #OpTurkey, which took down the Turkish President’s website, along with that of the country’s ruling party, in support of anti-government protests.

Another mid-June attack on over 225 tourist, library, and private business websites was blamed on Kurdish group ColdHackers.

On Thursday, Turkish hacker group Redhack claimed responsibility for all tweets relating to the Gezi protests after the launching of an investigation into some 5 million Gezi Park tweets was announced by the AKP (Justice and Development Party).

“We have posted all tweets and hacked thousands of people’s computers. Don’t take on the innocent ones, we are here,” Redhack wrote on its Twitter account, going on to say that any accounts that appeared to play a role in the organization of resistance were to re-tweet their message, and those that did had been hacked by the group.

Following the claim of responsibility, Twitter users began to announce that they were hacked by Redhack using the hashtag #wewerehackedbyredhack.

After 29 people’s houses were raided and they were subsequently detained for tweets related to the protests on June 5, the group recommended that “users can tell the police that their account was hacked by Redhack. We would take the blame with pleasure.”

Social media activists had been accused of using Twitter to “instigate public hatred and animosity,” according to Turkish media.

PM Erdogan even blamed social media for the unrest stating “there is now a menace which is called Twitter,” in the midst of the upheaval, dismissing the protests as being organized by extreme societal elements. “The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society,” he said.

Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım stressed however on June 19 that the government was working to “fight against cyber-crime, not to regulate social media,” with Deputy PM Bülent Arınç adding that people were free to communicate on social media but should be deterred from encouraging crime or violence.

As the protests have continued to draw support across the country, the Turkish government has used increasingly retaliatory measures against anyone involved in protests, culminating in threats to deploy the armed forces on Tuesday, the day after using tear gas and water cannons to disperse Monday’s demonstrators. Over 130 were arrested on Thursday alone, and six people have died to date as a result of the unrest, which is not scaling down despite authorities halting proposed renovations of Gezi Park.

“They’ve left branches hanging off trees and water and debris all over the streets” said RT’s Tom Barton in Ankara on Thursday.

Peaceful demonstrations began on May 28 when a group of environmentalists gathered together to campaign against the proposed development of a shopping mall in Istanbul neighborhood’s only remaining park – Gezi Park – next to Taksim Square. The violent suppression after Erdogan announced that he had already made his decision motivated thousands nationwide to display their solidarity.

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Comments Off on Turkey announces plans ‘for gas’ and cyber security in face of Gezi protests

Erdogan at Home: Yes to Oppression, No to Rights

By Doha Shams | Al-Akhbar | June 18, 2013

Since the start of the protests and ensuing unrest in Turkey, a peculiar tradition has emerged in Istanbul. As the soon as the clock strikes 9 pm, a chorus of percussion – banging pots and pans – emanates from open windows in “pro-opposition” buildings. The cacophony lasts for about half an hour, sometimes more, depending on the day’s events. Its purpose: to show solidarity with the protesters in Taksim Square.

Istanbul – Aznur returned from the dentist disappointed and worried. She had an appointment, but the clinic was closed. She was not sure if this had something to do with the general strike called by Turkey’s trade unions.

The young woman, in her twenties, stood bemused, her face still swollen from yesterday’s tear gas. She then mumbled, “Maybe he is still detained. He was protesting with us last night.”

Though Aznur’s English is broken, this is nonetheless a “great achievement” in Turkey, where few people go on to master any foreign languages. In truth, the language barrier has made on-location coverage difficult for those who want to understand events beyond the news agencies.

Five Turkish trade unions declared the strike following the brutal police crackdown on protesters, which has claimed the lives of four activists and injured thousands since the protests began. Yesterday alone, 600 protesters were detained throughout Turkey, according to a source in the Turkish Bar Association who declined to be named.

The trade unions’ move also signals their rejection of the policies of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Such policies have started to infringe alarmingly on individual freedoms, as many young men and women have told us.

Serttaş, a 30-year-old physical therapist, said, “Does Erdogan think Turkey is Gaza? The municipality of Ankara prohibited men and women from holding hands in public places and public transportation! Who does he think he is? All that is left for him to do is come with me to the bathroom! And why would he ban the sale of alcohol after 10 pm? I don’t understand.”

“We are here defending our way of life,” he added.

Yesterday was a momentous day. The repression of unarmed, peaceful protesters was unparalleled for a country not at war. Perhaps the explanation for Erdogan’s ham-fisted approach lies in his fear of catching the “Arab Spring” bug.

In its crackdown on the protesters, the government used a new type of tear gas, which could be a misnomer since the gas is blinding, as we were told by medical sources who said that 17 people have lost their sight because of the gas. The government has also shut down all communications, Internet access, and public transport like the subway and taxis. On top of it all, he has cut off power from Taksim Square to deter protesters from coming to the site.

These measures paralyzed the touristic capital. Thousands of tourists were stranded. We were able to spot some lost in the streets, unable to find their way back to their hotels.

We saw a Japanese tourist standing in front of a clerk at the bus station in Findikli Station on the Bosphorus. “I have a question,” she tried to tell the clerk. He looked at her said, “Yok yok” – Turkish for “there isn’t,” as in there isn’t anything operating. The tourist asked again, “Bus? Tram?”

“Bus yok, metro yok,” the clerk replied, making hand gestures to mimic someone walking. The girl, not quite sure what to do, followed his advice.

I, too, was stranded after witnessing the dispersal of a protest near Taksim using tear gas, water cannons, and batons. I ran away from the terrible smell in the direction of the waterfront along with some protesters. There, I encountered staggering traffic along the Bosphorus.

I learned afterwards that the legendary traffic was caused by Erdogan’s supporters, who came in from the Turkish provinces to meet his call to rally in the neighborhood of Zeytinburnu, where Erdogan delivered his speech.

“Most people left before Erdogan finished half of his speech,” a man in his fifties told us from where was he standing, in front of his café. I glanced at the Turkish television inside that was broadcasting Erdogan’s speech, and I saw the flag of the Syrian opposition.

During my long wait at the waterfront, I saw many large buses packed with women wearing the headscarf, and crammed taxis. Traffic was at a standstill. We asked one taxi after another, “Osmanbey?” to which the unanimous answer was “Kapali, kapali,” meaning “it’s closed.” The police reinforcements had closed it down.

Nearly an hour later, when Erdogan’s speech was over, traffic suddenly started rolling. In a matter of minutes, the street was completely empty, as though someone had blocked it at a faraway spot. I heard chants in the distance, and soon thereafter, a few-hundred-strong protest arrived in the area. Clearly, they came to protest against what Erdogan said during his speech.

Most of the protesters are young and middle class. There even are claims that most of the protesters are taking to the streets for the first time. Almost everyone was wearing a gas mask or goggles.

They looked at the choppers flying overhead and waved their fists at them in a challenging gesture. Passing boats in the Bosphorus sounded their horns, and people banged pots on balconies or applauded.

Şenol, a 40-year-old man who took part in the protests, said, “I do not blame the poor for backing Erdogan. They do not know their rights. They think that the handouts of the Justice and Development Party are something good. They don’t understand that his economic policies impoverish them.”

He continued, “Erdogan fools them with religious slogans while he sells public property, and expands the circle of cronies of businessmen and the nouveau riche. One day, they will understand. We too voted for him thinking he would rid us of the military, but he is worse than them.”

The time is nearly 8 pm. The sky is overcast. I tried to contact friends, but the phone lines are broken. Smartphones weren’t so smart either, because the Internet had been shut down.

Istanbul was nearly choking because of the fires and toxic gases that poisoned the air. Scores of hotel reservations and trips have been cancelled, much to the chagrin of workers who depend on tourism to make a living.

The clashes in Taksim and neighboring quarters continued throughout Saturday and Sunday. Street battles near the Osmanbey metro station led to a major confrontation on Sunday shortly after 4 pm.

It rained heavily, flash-flooding Istanbul’s streets. The rain washed away the toxic air, and forced some police officers to retreat. The protesters also took advantage of the rain to flee to their homes and wait for the next round of protests tomorrow.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Comments Off on Erdogan at Home: Yes to Oppression, No to Rights

Police Arrest over 100, Raid Media Offices in Turkey

Al-Manar | June 18, 2013

Turkish police detained dozens of people at their homes and raided two media offices on Tuesday in a coordinated operation across the country to clamp down on nearly three weeks of mass anti-government unrest, AFP reported.

Officers raided the homes of around 90 members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), a small leftist group that has been active in Istanbul’s Gezi Park protest at the centre of the nationwide protest movement, the Istanbul bar association said.

Police also searched the offices of the Atilim daily and the Etkin news agency, local media outlets linked to the ESP group, the NTV and CNN-Turk television stations reported.

NTV said 30 people were arrested in the capital Ankara and another 13 in the northwestern city of Eskisehir in a police swoop targeting 21 provinces overall.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Comments Off on Police Arrest over 100, Raid Media Offices in Turkey

Turkish Unions Protest Erdogan Crackdown, Announce Strike

Al-Manar | June 17, 2013

Two of Turkey’s main trade unions started a nationwide strike on Monday after police cleared protests from Istanbul protest park.

The KESK and DISK trade unions, who together represent hundreds of thousands of workers, called a one-day stoppage to object to the police violence against anti-government protesters, and said they planned to hold demos in the late afternoon.

“Our demand is for police violence to end immediately,” KESK spokesman Baki Cinar told AFP, adding that the unions would be joined by striking engineers, dentists and doctors.

Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler condemned the stoppage as “illegal” and warned strikers not to take to the streets, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended his crackdown on Gezi Park, the epicenter of the protest movement.

Riot police were still firing volleys of tear gas and water at pockets of demonstrators in Istanbul and the capital Ankara early on Monday, after a weekend of clashes sparked by the eviction of protesters occupying Gezi Park.

Nearly 600 people were arrested in the scuffles on Sunday alone, according to the Ankara and Istanbul bar associations.

The weekend violence has intensified a crisis that poses the biggest challenge yet to Erdogan’s decade-long rule.

At a rally of more than 100,000 supporters of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Sunday, the premier insisted it was his “duty” to order police to storm Gezi Park after protesters defied his warnings to clear out.

“I said we were at an end. That it was unbearable. Yesterday the operation was carried out and it was cleaned up,” a combative Erdogan told a sea of flag-waving loyalists. “It was my duty as prime minister.”

Erdogan’s words were met with roaring approval from the audience, the largest crowd to assemble since the crisis began. Many chanted: “The people are here, where are the looters?”, using Erdogan’s description of the demonstrators.

At the same time, riot police were fighting running battles with thousands of protesters determined to regroup after being ousted from Gezi Park and the adjoining Taksim Square, a mere 10 kilometers (six miles) away from the AKP rally.

Turkey’s political turmoil first began when a peaceful sit-in to save Gezi Park’s 600 trees from being razed prompted a brutal police response on May 31, spiralling into countrywide demonstrations against Erdogan.

The crisis has claimed four lives and injured nearly 7,500 people so far, according to the Turkish Medical Association.

June 17, 2013 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | Comments Off on Turkish Unions Protest Erdogan Crackdown, Announce Strike

Turkey will consider protesters staying at Taksim terrorists, official says

Press TV – June 16, 2013

Turkey’s European Union minister has warned that Turkish police will consider protesters in Istanbul’s Taksim Square as members or supporters of terrorist groups.

“I request our citizens who supported the protests until today kindly to return to their homes,” Egemen Bagis said in a late Saturday interview with Turkish channel A Haber.

“From now on the state will unfortunately have to consider everyone who remains there a supporter or member of a terror organization,” Bagis stated.

He went on to say that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan “has already assured [activists] about their aim with the protests. The protests from now on will play into the hands of some separatist organizations that want to break the peace and prioritize vandalism and terrorism.”

The unrest in Turkey erupted after police broke up a sit-in staged at Taksim Square on May 31 to protest against a government plan for the redevelopment of Gezi Park.

On Saturday night, Turkish police attacked anti-government protesters at Taksim, shortly after Erdogan ordered the demonstrators to evacuate the area.

Police also stormed the protest camp in Gezi Park, firing tear gas and using water cannons to disperse thousands of protesters defying the prime minister’s order to leave.

Several protesters have also been detained or wounded – some of them allegedly by rubber bullets.

Also on Saturday, Erdogan told the protesters that they would face the police if they did not leave Gezi Park.

“I say this very clearly: either Taksim Square is cleared, or if it isn’t cleared, then the security forces of this country will know how to clear it,” the Turkish prime minister said in a speech to his supporters in the Ankara suburb of Sincan.

The embattled premier said the demonstrations – which have been the largest street protests during his 10 years in power – were part of an organized plot against him.

However, the protesters have vowed to continue their campaign until their demands are met and the detained people are released.

The Turkish prime minister has faced international condemnation for his handling of the crisis. Turkish police have also been strongly criticized for using excessive force against the peaceful protests.

Five people, including a police officer, have reportedly died in the clashes and more than 5,000 protesters and 600 police officers have been wounded.

June 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Comments Off on Turkey will consider protesters staying at Taksim terrorists, official says

Erdogan Agrees to Halt Contentious Park Project, Protesters Welcome as Positive

Al-Manar | June 14, 2013

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday agreed to halt plans to redevelop an Istanbul park at the center of two weeks of mass anti-government unrest, in a move protesters welcomed as “positive”.

It marked the first easing of tensions in the standoff, which has presented the government with the biggest challenge of its decade-long rule.

Hours after giving a “last warning” to defiant demonstrators camping out in Gezi Park, Erdogan made the concession in his first talks with a key group of protesters to defuse tensions in the crisis.

“The positive outcome from tonight is the prime minister’s explanation that the project will not continue before the final court decision,” Tayfun Kahraman, a spokesman for the Taksim Solidary group, seen as the most representative of the protest movement, said in televised remarks.

A peaceful sit-in to save Gezi Park’s 600 trees from being razed prompted a brutal police response on May 31, spiralling into nationwide outpourings of anger against Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), seen as increasingly authoritarian.

The promise to abide by a court decision suspending the redevelopment of Gezi Park was hailed as a win by the protesters, who had earlier balked at Erdogan’s offer to hold a referendum over plans to reconstruct Ottoman-era military barracks on the site in return for evacuating the park.

Speaking after the four-hour emergency meeting, Deputy Prime Minister
Huseyin Celik said the government would respect the court’s decision on the project suspension and insisted a popular vote to seal the fate of the park
would go ahead.

“But Gezi Park protesters should stop their demonstration now,” he warned.

The court process is expected to take several months. In the meantime, a probe is under way to investigate the use of excessive police force in dealing with the protesters across the country, Celik added.

Some 5,000 people have been injured and four were killed by the police so far, because of the use of tear gas, rubber ballets and water cannons on demonstrators.

Source: AFP

June 14, 2013 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Comments Off on Erdogan Agrees to Halt Contentious Park Project, Protesters Welcome as Positive

FM: Iran Hopes for Peaceful Settlement of Problems in Turkey

Fars News Agency | June 2, 2013

TEHRAN – The Iranian foreign ministry underlined the domestic nature of the current unrest in Turkey, and expressed the hope that the problems in the neighboring country will be solved by the Turkish officials’ tact and wide domestic diplomacy.

“The conflicts in Turkey are an internal issue and we hope that this problem will be solved calmly and peacefully by the Turkish leaders’ insight,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Araqchi told FNA on Sunday.

The protests in Turkey began earlier this week as a sit-in over plans to redevelop Gezi Park in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, but escalated after police used tear gas.

In Ankara, protesters tried to march on the parliament.

Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon for a second day on Saturday to prevent hundreds of protesters reaching the central Taksim Square, scene of violent protests in which hundreds were wounded.

Anti-government demonstrators wearing handkerchiefs and surgical masks chanted “unite against fascism” and “government resign” as they tried to walk down the street to Taksim, a witness said.

Protesters also clashed with police in the Besiktas neighborhood, on the shores of the Bosphorus, after crossing a bridge in another apparent attempt to reach Taksim.

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Comments Off on FM: Iran Hopes for Peaceful Settlement of Problems in Turkey

Democracy in Turkey: Peaceful Protest Turns Violent as Police Fire Teargas

Al-Manar | June 1, 2013

Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon on Friday at demonstrators in central Istanbul, wounding scores of people and prompting rallies in other cities in the fiercest anti-government protests in years.

Thousands of demonstrators massed on streets surrounding Istanbul’s central Taksim Square while protests erupted in the capital, Ankara, and the Aegean coastal city of Izmir.

Broken glass and rocks were strewn across a main shopping street near Taksim. Primary school children ran crying from the clouds of tear gas, while tourists caught by surprise scurried to get back to hotels lining the square.

The unrest reflects growing disquiet at the authoritarianism of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Riot police clashed with tens of thousands of May Day protesters in Istanbul this past month. There have also been protests against the government’s stance on the conflict in neighboring Syria.

“We do not have a government, we have Tayyip Erdogan. … Even AK Party supporters are saying they have lost their mind, they are not listening to us,” said Koray Caliskan, a political scientist at Bosphorus University, who attended the protest.

The protest at Taksim’s Gezi Park started late on Monday after trees were torn up under a government redevelopment plan, but has widened into a broader demonstration against Erdogan’s administration. Friday’s violence erupted after a dawn police raid on demonstrators who had been camped out for days.

“This isn’t just about trees anymore, it’s about all of the pressure we’re under from this government. We’re fed up, we don’t like the direction the country is headed in,” said 18-year-old student Mert Burge, who came to support the protesters after reading on Twitter about the police use of tear gas.

Thousands chanting for the government to resign gathered at a park in the center of Ankara, where police earlier fired tear gas to disperse several dozen opposition supporters trying to reach the AKP headquarters. Protesters also rallied at two locations in Izmir, according to pictures on social media.

A woman was in critical condition last night after being hit by a police gas canister and underwent an operation after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

A total of 12 people, including a pro-Kurdish MP and a Reuters photographer, suffered trauma injuries and hundreds suffered respiratory problems due to tear gas, doctors said.

Some people were injured when a wall they were climbing collapsed as they tried to flee clouds of tear gas.

Amnesty International said it was concerned by “the use of excessive force” by the police against what had started out as a peaceful protest. Ria Oomen-Ruijten, the European parliament rapporteur on Turkey, also voiced concern.

In Washington, the State Department said it was concerned with the number of injuries and was gathering its own information on the incident.

“We believe that Turkey’s long-term stability, security and prosperity is best guaranteed by upholding the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association, which is what it seems these individuals were doing,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

Interior Minister Muammer Guler promised that allegations that police had used disproportionate force would be investigated.

Hundreds of military officers have been jailed for plotting a coup against Erdogan in recent years. Academics, journalists, politicians and others face trial on similar charges.

He has made no secret of his ambition to run for the presidency in elections next year when his term as prime minister ends, increasing opposition dismay.

“These people will not bow down to you” read one banner at the Gezi Park protest, alongside a cartoon of Erdogan wearing an Ottoman emperor’s turban.

Postings on social media including Twitter, where “Occupy Gezi” – a reference to protests in New York and London last year – was a top-trending hashtag, and Facebook said similar demonstrations were planned for the next few days in other Turkish cities including Ankara, Izmir, Adana and Bursa.

June 1, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Democracy in Turkey: Peaceful Protest Turns Violent as Police Fire Teargas