Erdogan rallies supporters as unions call nationwide strike
As demonstrators refuse to pull back, Turkish police bring the full force of the law down upon them. Many are injured, many are fighting back. Unionists have called a nationwide strike, and Prime Minister Erdogan rallies tens and thousands of supporters.
Turkey in disarray
Erdogan met with protesters late on Friday night. A government spokesman made statement that they had agreed to hold off on plans to redevelop the park until a court rules whether or not it is legal to abandon the plans.
Erdogan made the promise that if the court agreed with the government then the development plans would be put to a referendum, so that the people could have their say.
He approached the demonstrators with much more patience than he had shown in the past two weeks, saying "you have stayed here as long as you could and have relayed your message. If your message is about Gezi Park, it has been received and evaluated…please now leave Gezi Park and go to your homes."
The talk appeared to be a fairly successful one. Tayfun Kahraman, spokesman of the Taksim Solidarity Group (the main group representing the majority of demonstrators), said it was a “positive outcome” and that they would review the prime minister's proposal.
However hopes for resolving the disagreement shattered when demonstrators issued the statement that they would not leave, and that their protest was no longer a matter solely of conserving Gezi Park but one of a deeper political nature, namely of an increasingly authoritarian behaviour on the part of Erdogan and his AK party.
"We will continue our resistance in the face of any injustice and unfairness taking place in our country," insisted the Taksim Solidarity group. "This is only the beginning."
The protest began on the 31st of May as a peaceful demonstration against re-development plans to build over Gezi Park with a Mosque and an 18th century military barracks replica. However the situation has since exploded into a nationwide anti-government protest, which has seen 5 dead and thousands injured.
Erdogan has blamed foreign media outlets for encouraging the demonstrators and attempting to sabotage Turkey and its economy. He has also accused the protesters of being “extremists” and “looters”.
He warned demonstrators to clear out of Gezi park before his rally with the AK party in Ankara on Sunday, where he gathered tens and thousands of supporters, saying to them "if Taksim Square is not evacuated, this country's security forces will know how to evacuate it."
Meanwhile thousands of non-supporters in Ankara poured into the streets singing anti-government slogans and expressing their support for the demonstrators camped in Gezi Park.
On Saturday police cracked down once again with their water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas, finally clearing the protesters from Gezi Park.
Although Police have now blocked up every road that leads in and out of both Gezi Park and Taksim square, clashes and “stand-offs” continue between officers and demonstrators throughout the streets of Istanbul and other parts of Turkey.
Erdogan defends the Police clamp down, whilst unionists call for a stop to what they see as police brutality.
The Confederation of Public Workers' Unions (KESK) and the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DISK) have called a nationwide strike against the force used by police on anti-government protesters. "Our demand is for police violence to end immediately," says KESK spokesman Baki Cinar to AFP News.
The Turkish Medical Association has condemned the extensive use of tear gas used by police, emphasising the serious health risks involved with such intense exposure.
Bitterness is rising on both sides as violence sweeps through the land, making a peaceful agreement through dialogue ever more improbable.