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By T.J. Stiles

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Ear to the Ground

Police Crack Down on Istanbul Protesters

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Posted on May 31, 2013

Grainy cellphone footage shows park protesters in Istanbul.

Riot police used tear gas and pepper spray to break up a peaceful crowd of demonstrators in Istanbul on Friday. The reason for the protest? The closing of a park in the city.

Demonstrators in Gezi Park have been camped out since May 28 in an effort to stop bulldozers from razing what they say is one of the last green public spaces in the city to make room for a shopping mall, part of Istanbul’s redevelopment plan for the area.

Beyond just the closing of the park, however, many Turks see greater issues. Some point out a lack of transparency in the decision to close the space and in the larger gentrification plan for the city. Others see it as an expression of dissatisfaction with government rule, catalyzed by a matter that hits close to home. Meanwhile a deputy of the ruling Justice and Development Party mocked the protesters on Twitter, saying “some were in need of gas.”

—Posted by Christian Neumeister


Several protesters were injured on Friday when a wall they climbed collapsed during a police chase, and a prominent journalist was hospitalised after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister, the private Dogan news agency reported.

Police moved in to disperse the crowd on the fourth day of the protest against a government plan to revamp the square. Officers then clashed with angry demonstrators in surrounding areas.

Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from Istanbul, said many protesters complained that the police were firing teargas indiscriminately.

“We saw a lot of tourists running to different directions. People are trying to take refuge at coffee shops and the homes around the area. Police have been firing tear gas in different directions,” Rageh said.

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