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Turkish police fire teargas at protesters on anniversary of unrest

By By, Ayla, Jean and Yackley

May 31 (Reuters) - Turkish police fired teargas and water cannon on Saturday to disperse protesters in central Istanbul who sought to mark the one-year anniversary of the country's biggest anti-government demonstrations in decades.

Authorities closed roads and stopped public transport to deny access to Taksim Square and the adjoining Gezi Park where government plans to raze the green space and build a shopping mall sparked last year's unrest.

Police lines kept back activists who had hoped to read a statement at Taksim Square and lay flowers at the park to commemorate the deaths of at least six people in the protests against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's rule.

Another half-dozen people died in sporadic unrest in the ensuing months as anger at Erdogan and his AK Party simmered.

Hundreds of people chanted "Resign, murderer AKP," and "Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance" on the busy shopping street Istiklal that leads to Taksim before police fired teargas at the crowd, forcing it to retreat.

Police also broke up protests in the capital Ankara and the southern city of Adana, CNN Turk reported.

At least three people were detained in Istanbul, witnesses said. Police helicopters circled overhead.

Tourists lugging suitcases were forced to turn back to escape the stinging gas. A few hundred protesters carrying political banners ran away from police down a hill towards the Bosphorous Strait, the waterway bisecting Istanbul.


Earlier in the day, Erdogan warned people to stay out of Taksim, saying security forces would not tolerate any march on the square.

"Our security forces have clear orders. They will do whatever is necessary from A to Z," Erdogan said at a ceremony in Istanbul that was broadcast live by the NTV news channel.

"Don't fall for these games. This is not about environmentalism. There is no sincerity or honesty here."

On May 31, 2013, police forcefully evicted environmentalists from Gezi Park who had staged a peaceful sit-in for several days to try to stop government plans to erect a shopping center and luxury flats in one of central Istanbul's few remaining parks.

Angered by the use of violence, tens of thousands of people from a variety of political backgrounds descended on Gezi and occupied Taksim Square for two weeks before authorities finally cleared the space.

Many at Gezi complained of as authoritarianism as Erdogan, a religious conservative who dominates the Turkish political scene, marked a decade in office.

On Saturday, riot police circled the perimeter of Gezi, and hundreds of plainclothes officers carrying batons patrolled. Newspapers said 25,000 officers had been deployed on Saturday.

The metro station at Taksim was closed and the governor halted ferryboat services between Istanbul's shores on either side of the Bosphorus Strait.

Elif Cetinkaya, 45, and her family gathered across the street from Gezi Park - one of the few green spaces in Europe's biggest city - on Saturday in quiet protest, wearing T-shirts with the images of those killed in the 2013 unrest.

"Why did so many people have to die to save this park? We are here to mourn their loss and show that we stand firm, no matter what obstacles they erect," Cetinkaya said.

The protest movement appeared to have little impact on the ruling AK Party's political fortunes when it won national municipal elections in March.

The movement has lost much of its momentum since, said one member of a leftist party who wore a scarf to ward off teargas.

"After the election, many people felt nothing makes a difference. There's no one issue now for everyone to rally around," he said, requesting anonymity.

(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Nicholas Tattersall; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Join the discussion

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Pumpkinpie May 31 2014 at 6:56 PM


Flag Reply +12 rate up
5 replies
PERFORATOR May 31 2014 at 5:59 PM

Tear gas and water cannons? What a bunch of backwards rubes! Even our Department of Agriculture has been issued automatic weapons!

Flag Reply +9 rate up
2 replies
LEALYS 2 COol 4u PERFORATOR May 31 2014 at 8:05 PM

more games by imperialists

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Gregg PERFORATOR June 01 2014 at 8:04 AM

Yeah, 0bama has brought us into the modern age.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
2 replies
hensteeth Gregg June 01 2014 at 9:42 AM

Engelun asks Gregg for enlightenment. Might as well try squeezing champaign out of an old sweat sock.

Flag 0 rate up
dickn2000b Gregg June 01 2014 at 9:54 AM

Gee Greg...I'm a long time Goldwater Republican with no great love for Obama, but please tell me what Obama has to do with this. You must be dumber than a stump. It's people like you that give trailer parks a bad name. Here's some advice; If your I.Q. ever gets to 50...SELL!

Flag 0 rate up
magus47 May 31 2014 at 6:22 PM

OMG!!!! Turkey using GAS on it's people!! Truly the republicans will soon be demanding that Obama sends troops into Turkey! WE MUST FIGHT THEM THERE SO WE DON'T FIGHT THEM HERE. We must defend our freedom! And all the other worn out sayings they use to promote war.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
7 replies
jcarey99 May 31 2014 at 7:20 PM

That's Japanese Bukake..

Flag Reply +4 rate up
oujoou May 31 2014 at 5:24 PM

Wish this happened in a month. Then we could blame it on the summer heat. :( I'm always saddened by turmoil like this. Wish we had a 'boo boo' button. It should be a world wide custom to wear a bandaid when you are feeling down or umm . . . feel like rioting . . .or feel abused by the system. Just wear it on your hand. Or if you need a hug from strangers . . .on your chin or forehead. Obviously . .. the last thing you want is people dying. :(

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Rob May 31 2014 at 6:41 PM

Looks like they just walked out of a brothel.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
tipledan May 31 2014 at 11:02 PM

These women of all islam nations could terminate the crap of terrorists by just having a special day each year they celebrate which would be called islamic Ladies Freedom Day.
During the night, about 2am, they simply roll over and slit the throat of the terrorist they live with. Its the right thing to do.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
dan_crabtree May 31 2014 at 10:24 PM

Makes no difference where you live activist protestors and people in general looking for a little excitement stand ready to protest your government.. your job.. wall street..the rich.. for the poor...homosexual ideaolgy..rights for the people in jail or prisons.. now today there are protestors protesting protestors..sick sad world...and only getting more worse now daily...for indeed if you lived in a complete paradise of contintment some idiot will protest that as well....

Flag Reply +2 rate up
bigred8690 May 31 2014 at 4:24 PM

Wouldn't it be fun to be a riot cop for just one day?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
4 replies
jcduyal June 01 2014 at 7:17 AM

Erdogan is a dictator who will somaday take Turkey back to the sharia rule over that country.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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