Thousands of people have taken to the streets in the Turkish city of Istanbul, defying Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call for an immediate end to protests.
Anti - government protesters arrived in the iconic Taksim Square on Saturday to set their tents for a weekend of protests. Demonstrators in the capital, Ankara, also planned to hold fresh protests, as the anti - government demonstrations entered their ninth day. On Friday, Erdogan called for an immediate end to the demonstrations in the country and said the government was open to “democratic demands, ” but adding that the demonstrations were “bordering on vandalism. ” The unrest began after police broke up a sit - in staged at Taksim Square on May 31 to protest against the demolition of Gezi Park. The protesters say the park, which is a traditional gathering point for rallies and demonstrations as well as a popular tourist destination, is the city ' s last public green space. Anti - government demonstrations have been held in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Mugla, Antalya, and many other cities and towns since May 31. Protesters call for the resignation of Erdogan. Police used tear gas and water canon to disperse protesters in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Mugla, Antalya, and many other cities, injuring thousands of people and leaving four dead in clashes. The Turkish prime minister accused the European Union of double standards, after EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule criticized the excessive use of police force against protesters in the country.
“Peaceful demonstrations constitute a legitimate way for these groups to express their views in a democratic society. Excessive use of force by police against these demonstrations has no place in such a democracy, ” Fule said at a conference in Istanbul on Friday ahead of talks over Ankara’s hope to join the EU.
Speaking at the same conference, Erdogan said people involved in similar demonstration would “face a harsher response” in other European countries.