After a night of wide-ranging violence in Istanbul, a role reversal occurred: Turkish security forces occupied Taksim Square and anti-government protesters were left on the outside looking in.
Authorities used overwhelming force on June 15 to evict protesters from Gezi Park and Taksim Square, setting off a night of running street confrontations in the surrounding neighborhoods. Witnesses said the violence was the worst since the crisis began in late May, and came just two days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his critics appeared to agree on the outline of a plan to reduce tension.
The latest events appear to be having a polarizing effect, dividing Turkey into two camps: Erdogan critics and Erdogan supporters. A statement issued by the international watchdog group Amnesty International said more than 100 protesters were believed to have been taken into police custody during the latest police operation against Gezi protesters.
“Following a night of shocking police violence, the authorities are now denying due process to those they have detained. The police must release them immediately or disclose their location and allow access to family members and lawyers,” the statement quoted Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey, as saying.
The Gezi Park protest started out as a simple environmental protest, with a small group of protesters seeking to protect one of Istanbul’s last green spaces. But a heavy-handed police response quickly transformed the protest into a massive show of discontent with Erdo?an’s authoritarian governing style.
After pushing protesters out of Gezi Park and Taksim Sqaure, security forces cut off all access to the area, announcing that anyone trying to enter the area would be treated as a terrorist.
The protest movement showed no sign of caving under government pressure. Clashes were reported throughout June 16 in various parts of Istanbul and Ankara. Protesters at several points attempted to reenter Taksim Square, only to run up against unyielding security agents.
In a move likely to rile his critics and heighten societal tension, Erdogan planned to hold a mass rally of his supporters on the evening of June 16. Meanwhile, Turkish news outlets reported that the government was bringing in hundreds of riot police from outlying cities into Istanbul.
Originally published by EurasiaNet.org