Protests in Istanbul and several other Turkish cities appear to have subsided, after days of fierce clashes following a police crackdown on a peaceful gathering.
Only a few hundred protesters remain at Istanbul’s main square, which was the scene of the largest and fiercest anti-government outburst in Turkey in years, the private Dogan news agency said today. The group lit a bonfire and chanted anti-government slogans in an all-night vigil, but shrank as rain set in.
The demonstrations grew out of anger over a violent police crackdown of a peaceful environmental protest at Istanbul’s Taksim Square and spread to other Turkish cities. The government said some 1,000 people were detained during the protests. Hundreds were injured in the clashes.
Thousands of people had flooded Istanbul’s main square yesterday after a crackdown on an anti-government protests turned city streets into a battlefield clouded by tear gas, in scenes reminiscent of the Arab Spring.
Though he offered some concessions to demonstrators, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan remained largely defiant in the face of the biggest popular challenge to his power in a decade in office, insisting the protests were undemocratic and illegitimate.
Public anger had flared among urban and secular Turks after police violently broke up an anti-development sit-in in the square, with protests spreading to other cities as demonstrators denounced what they see as Mr Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian style.
But Mr Erdogan promised to stick to the government’s redevelopment plans for Taksim Square – which protesters fear will remove one of the few green spaces in the sprawling city.
The protests broke out just days after Istanbul pitched its bid to host the 2020 Olympic games to sports and Olympic officials at a conference in St. Petersburg.
The United States, Britain and Sweden were among countries that asked citizens to stay away from areas where protests were held.