Turkish protesters clash with riot police in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.
Although Turkey’s government has been criticized for harsh tactics dealing with the demonstrators who have occupied central Istanbul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed Wednesday, “We have not responded to punches with punches.”
“From now on,” he warned, “security forces will respond differently.”
The sense of a looming denouement at Gezi Park off Taksim Square in central Istanbul was reinforced when a deputy leader of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) said the park had to be cleared of demonstrators as soon as possible.
Thousands of protesters again gathered at the park on Wednesday evening, with phalanxes of riot police marshalling nearby.
The European Union has condemned the Turkish government’s crackdown on protesters and some officials have called for an investigation. Turkey has been trying to join the EU for decades, and this is but the latest controversy to threaten those plans.
Riot police used tear gas and water cannon on people in office clothes and families with children, as well as youths in masks who had fought skirmishes for control of the central Istanbul square.
“I followed the events last night with growing concern,” the EU’s chief for enlargement, Stefan Fuele, said in a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.