Protesters in Istanbul’s Gezi Park
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reiterated his appeal for protesters to withdraw from the streets, while affirming that the Government will be sticking to the judicial decision about the fate of Istanbul’s Gezi Park, the catalyst for 16 days of nationwide protests.
Erdoğan, speaking to members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said, “We will wait for the judicial decision, we will be following it.”
The Prime Minister, in a significant easing of his public line following a Thursday night meeting with protest leaders, said that — even with a court decision allowing the re-development of Gezi Park — a “plebiscite” would be held through Istanbul’s Metropolitan Municipality.
At the same time, Erdogan called on demonstrators to leave the park: “Youngsters look, you have stayed here as much as you could, you gave your message. If their message is about Taksim Gezi Park, their message has been received and evaluated.”
And he warned, “They should not urge us to resort to different measures,” following police operations against nearby Taksim Square, the centre of demonstrations, on Tuesday.
Erdogan insisted that “really innocent” and “sincere” protesters were being manipulated: “With those people, there are ill-intended people, opportunists that are ready and equipped to provoke events. These are illegal organizations. These are people intertwined with terrorist organizations.”
EA’s Ali Yenidunya updates: “People are reportedly marching from all around Istanbul towerd Taksim [Square]. Some bridges are closed by police. There are reports of clashes all around Istanbul.”
— ilhan tanir (@WashingtonPoint) June 15, 2013
A march from Bostanci, on the Asian side of the Bosporus:
— Barbaros Üsekes (@busekes) June 15, 2013
A rally from Eskisehir:
An itibariyle Eskişehir! Sayabiliyor musunuz? pic.twitter.com/LKURa0l8kW
— ismail Genç (@isoloji) June 15, 2013
The Governor of Istanbul says 29 people have been injured, none of them seriously in an “exceptionally fine” police intervention to clear Gezi Park.
— ilhan tanir (@WashingtonPoint) June 15, 2013
EA’s Ali Yenidunya reports that police, using tear gas and water cannon, have moved into Gezi Park to clear protesters.
With Prime Minister Erdogan warning of a police operation if protesters do not leave, Hurriyet has a Live Video Stream showing thousands of demonstrators in Istanbul’s Gezi Park.
Dogan News Agency also has a Live Stream.
EA’s Ali Yenidunya summarises Prime Minister Erdogan’s speech to his supporters, in a “Respect to the National Will” rally in Ankara.
Protesters have been performing an act in a play for 17 days. They carried Turkish flags on one hand and burned them on the other. They entered into mosques and drank there.
There have been scenes inside tents that are not compatible with the nation’s values, manners and morals.
The Prime Minister then made his central threat:
If they will not empty the park tomorrow, my security forces will: the State is not their toy.
The Taksim Solidarity protest movement has responded, “We will keep guarding [Istanbul’s Gezi] Park, we are going nowhere.”
Erdogan will speak to a gathering in Istanbul tomorrow.
UN spokeswoman Eliana Nabaa has confirmed that a rocket attack on an Iranian exile group housed at a camp near Baghdad earlier today caused fatalities.
Nabaa added “We don’t have the figures but yes, people were killed and injured.” However, a police colonel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, put the toll at three dead and 11 wounded from six mortars.
France 24 posts a video report of the threat of detention for those who “insult the Emir” on social media:
Five soldiers have been killed in clashes between Libyan special forces and armed protesters in the eastern city of Benghazi, according to officials.
The officials did not make clear who the protesters were and if any had been killed in the fighting between 2 and 6 a.m.
“The clashes lasted from 02:00 (00:00 GMT) until 06:00 but are over now,” Col Mohammed Sharif, of the special forces in Benghazi, told Reuters news agency.
Demonstrators have refused to vacate Istanbul’s Gezi Park despite Prime Minister Erdogan’s call to withdraw and a possible agreement over the site’s redevelopment.
“We will continue our resistance in the face of any injustice and unfairness taking place in our country,” the Taksim Solidarity group said in a statement on Saturday.
In a meeting with protest leaders late Thursday night, Erdogan accepted a delay of the redevelopment of Gezi Park — which the Government hoped to convert into an replica Ottoman-era military barracks housing a shopping mall — pending a court decision on its legality.
Earlier on Saturday, President Abdullah Gul support Erdogan’s call that “everyone should now return home,” insisting “the channels for discussion and dialogue” have opened.
There was no police move into Gezi Park overnight, but in Ankara, security forces with water cannons and tear gas dispersed protesters who erected street barricades near the Parliament building.