Police staged an early morning raid on protesters bidding to protect trees from being cut down in a central park. However, the move seems to have backfired, with the protesters unmoved and support growing.
Demonstrations to prevent the demolition of a park on Istanbul’s Taksim Square, which is due to be replaced with a shopping mall, entered their third day with police using tear gas at the break of dawn. However, the attack seems to have backfired, triggering more participation in the demonstrations during the day, which continued peacefully and festively.
A group of young demonstrators, who spent a third night in Taksim Gezi Park in an effort to halt the controversial demolition, woke up engulfed in huge clouds of tear gas fired by the police at 5 a.m. this morning. One demonstrator was hospitalized after the police’s attack.
The police used the Mass Incident Intervention Vehicle (TOMA) to disperse the demonstrators in the park, before seizing their tents. Some of the tents were burnt in the park, as the demonstrators remonstrated with civilian police officers for burning their tents.
After the police’s attack, the demolition vehicles resumed their work. One demonstrator who lay in front of a vehicle was forcibly removed.
MP in front of bulldozers
However, the demolition of the park was halted around 8 a.m. in the morning, after Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Istanbul Deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder stood in front of the bulldozers, for a second day.
Meanwhile, the main opposition Republican People’s Party announced May 30 that every day at least one CHP deputy would attend the protests and be on duty to prevent the demolition.
CHP Deputy Chair Umut Oran called on Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş to visit the scene and listen to the demands of the city’s residents. Oran said if the mayor could not convince the locals then the project had to be changed, addressing the reporters gathered in Gezi Park May 30.
Protesters launch petition as artists join them
Without being intimidated, activists continued their demonstration and organized workshops and other activities. Some read books sitting next to the police guarding the park, others prepared colorful banners while some protestors sang and danced together. They also launched a petition against the demolition of the park.
Activists and actors also joined the demonstrators in the park throughout the day, as the well-known talk show host Okan Bayülgen announced that he would stand guard at night by reading in the park. Outspoken artists such as stage actor Mehmet Ali Alabora, actress Şebnem Sönmez, writer Ece Temelkuran and journalist Can Ataklı also joined the demonstration to support the protest.
For a handful of trees: Environment minister
Gezi Park is a small area, Forestry and Waterworks Minister Veysel Eroğlu said, adding that there was only a limited number of trees. Eroğlu however vowed to plant “a hundred times more trees than are cut” in Gezi Park elsewhere. He said they had decided to plant 5 million trees in Istanbul, adding that the historical artifacts in the park would also be removed and protected. Eroğlu said he had not counted how many trees would be cut in the park.
The main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu made a surprise support visit late May 29 to the several hundreds of demonstrators in Gezi Park. Kılıçdaroğlu promised that deputies from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) would take it in turns every day to stand guard together with the protestors against any attempt to bring back the bulldozers. He also vowed that the park would remain in place. CHP deputy chairman Gürsel Tekin claimed that the police’s early morning onslaught was caused by Kılıçdaroğlu’s visit. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğanhad voiced his determination to demolish the park and replace it with a shopping mall.
Duygu Doğan contributed to this report from the Istanbul bureau.
30 May 2013