Protestors near Gezi Park are assaulted with water cannon after riot police moved in to clear the park and adjoining Taksim Square on Saturday. From the New York Times:
After 18 days of antigovernment demonstrations that presented a broad rebuke to the country’s leadership, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the riot police to storm the center of the protest movement in Gezi Park on Saturday evening, setting off a night of chaos in downtown Istanbul.
As protesters fled the tear gas and water cannons, the police pursued them, in one case into a luxury hotel near the park where medics tended to people injured in the raid.
Within hours, thousands of people began streaming downtown to protest the crackdown, setting bonfires on the city’s main boulevard as tear gas wafted through streets normally bustling on a Saturday night.
Local officials said at least 44 people had been injured in the mayhem — the worst since the protests began — but their counts are often low. Some people sprawled on the floor of a makeshift clinic in a hotel ballroom complained of burns from chemicals in the jets of water shot from the water cannons.
The crackdown came just a day after it appeared that Mr. Erdogan may have outflanked the protesters, whose complaints against the planned destruction of Gezi Park for an Ottoman- themed shopping mall grew into broader anger and nationwide protests over what critics call Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian style. The wider protests began after the first police attack in the park, in Taksim Square.
Facing the gravest political crisis in more than 10 years in power, Mr. Erdogan was initially defiant, but late last week attempted to halt the broader movement against him by offering a compromise on the razing of the park that included letting the courts decide what should happen. He won over the protest organizers, but they struggled to bring along the rank-and-file demonstrators, who vowed on Saturday to stay put. Then, even as the organizers continued to try to work for a peaceful solution, Mr. Erdogan appeared to lose patience, sending in the police.
It is unclear how the latest crackdown will play out in the wider population, given that Mr. Erdogan — who remains popular in many parts of the country — had first offered a compromise. But the brutality of the police assault already set off new demonstrations in Istanbul, and the capital, Ankara, and appeared to harden the resolve of the core protesters.
“We will keep coming back,” said Tulay Bardak, 52, who had fled the park on Saturday night. “We will resist. It’s us against them. No amount of gas can keep us out of the park.”
(Photo: Yanis Behrakis / Reuters via the Times)