June 2, 2013
Calm returned to the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Sunday, as residents began clearing up debris following a night of clashes between police and protesters. Thousands took to the streets in Istanbul and Ankara on Friday and Saturday in a flare-up of anger among urban and secular Turks after police violently broke up an anti-development sit-in in Istanbul’s landmark Taksim Square.
Protests soon spread to dozens of other cities, as demonstrators denounced what they see as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian style. In Ankara, thousands congregated at a busy shopping street on Saturday – jovially singing, waving Turkish flags, and often breaking into calls for Erdogan to resign.
Police fired tear gas and used water cannon to disperse some of the protesters. Early on Sunday, residents passed by shattered windows and debris, as the clear-up began.
Some said they felt both protesters and police went too far in their confrontations with one another.
“In situations like these, police use undue force, it’s out of proportion. Police should be protecting people,” said one Ankara resident. Another called the way the protesters handled themselves “unnecessary”.
“If you want to stand for something, there are other ways of doing it. I think it’s wrong,” he said.
The protests broke out just days after Istanbul pitched its bid to host the 2020 Olympic games to sports and Olympic officials at a conference in St Petersburg.
It was also seen as a demonstration of the anger building towards Turkish police, who have been accused of using inordinate force to quash demonstrations and of using tear gas excessively. In another gesture to placate protesters, Erdogan said that police may have used tear gas excessively.
However, at least two people have been killed in clashes between police and rioters the Amnesty International organization reports. Over 1,000 have been injured. Riots continued for a third day Sunday in the city of Istanbul. On Saturday police withdrew from Taksim Square, where the largest anti-government protests in years are taking place. Some rioters threw objects at police officers as they responded with tear gas.