Riot police have taken partial control of Taksim Square after entering the site around 7.30 a.m. and surrounded the Atatürk Statue following use of tear gas and pressurized water on the protesters.
As of 11:30, a human chain had been formed to prevent the police from intervening, but was immediately dispersed by the officers. Crowds at the park do not come down to the square, but try to support the clashing groups by chanting slogans.
The police also intervened with a gathering at the Gezi Park scheduled for 1 p.m. with tear gas and pressurized water. The Taksim Square was under a thick cloud of tear gas as of 1:30 p.m., while more people were reportedly injured during the ongoing crackdown.
Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu said there had been only minor injuries and no one had been hospitalized.
However, hundreds of protesters have been wounded during today’s clashes, with five critical cases, Turkish Medical Association (TTB) president Ahmet Özdemir Aktan told the HDN.
The injuries include tens of head traumas due to the close shots of the gas canisters, Aktan added, particularly mentioning one case where the protester’s skull was severely cracked. The protester is currently undergoing an operation at Şişli Etfal Hospital.
The numbers of injured have been gathered from five different infirmaries around the Taksim area, Aktan said.
It was the first time the police entered the square since they retreated from the iconic venue on June 1.
The Governor’s Office said the operation only aimed to “clear the banners and flags on the Atatürk statue and the AKM cultural center” and no operation was planned for the Gezi Park. Police used tear gas and pressurized water against a handful of protesters clashing with the police, while the majority of the protesters retreated to Gezi Park and asked everybody to remain calm.
Live television footage showed a few Molotov cocktails being thrown at police officers. The Gezi Park protesters were quick to put distance between them and the clashers, saying on Twitter that they had never seen those who threw the Molotov cocktails in the two-week-long demonstrations.Clashes between police and small groups of protesters continue in streets and alleys around Taksim Square. Gezi Park is relatively calm aside from the effects of the tear gas generously used in the square. Police also used tear gas and pressurized water against groups trying to enter the square.
Some protestors were seen talking to the police in an attempt to convince them not to use tear gas, while also trying to calm their fellow protestors.
The banners and flags hanging on the AKM cultural center and the Atatürk statue were removed by the police. Only a Turkish flag and an Atatürk poster remained on the AKM.
Forces have also removed the barricades that had been built by protesters on the streets entering the Taksim area.
In a written statement, the Governor’s Office said the operation aimed only to remove the banners and flags and no intervention was planned for Gezi Park and the tents inside.
Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu wrote on his Twitter account that they would “never touch Gezi Park and the protesters.”
“I ask you to calmly wait where you are without any provocations,” Mutlu wrote.
Olat Güden, a young protestor who was hit with a gas canister, said the police fired the gas bomb from 50 meters away pointing the the gas gun to his face.
“I had a Turkish flag in my hand and I was trying to stop the clash between the protestors and police, I was I the middle and he hit me,” Güden role the Hürriyet Daily News on the while volunteer doctors was treating his heavily injured right leg.
One of the injured was unconscious, possibly passed out. Police have continued using gas in the Sıraselviler, Tarlabaşı and Elmadağ sections of Taksim. One of the protesters told the Daily News that the police had aimed tear gas at his face, and when he turned around the run away, the gas capsule hit him in the leg.
Despite constant announcements by police forces warning Gezi Park crowds to remain in the park, protesters are currently trying to approach the clashes in a move to show support and solidarity with those under police intervention.
11 June 2013