Harsh police crackdown empties Istanbul’s Gezi Park, Taksim Square

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Riot police used tear gas, water cannon, and plastic bullets to disperse people who had arrived at Gezi Park in Istanbul’s Taksim Square tonight, despite the park earlier being officially opened to public.

Many people, including members of NGOs such as the Taksim Solidarity Platform and the Turkish Doctors Association, were taken into custody in the crackdown.

Witnesses suggested dozens of people had been detained, including Mücella Yapıcı, a spokesperson for the Taksim Solidarity Platform and a representative of the Chamber of Architects and Engineers (TMMOB), and Ali Çerkezoğlu, general secretary of the Istanbul Medical Chamber, according to daily Radikal.

The Istanbul Medical Chamber confirmed the detentions in a written statement today, putting the total number of detainees at 35. It also said the TMMOB provincial coordination committee secretary, Süleyman Solmaz, and one of its members, Dr. Kamil Tekerek, were among the detainees.

Taksim Solidarity Platform members Erkan Baş, Ongun Yücel, Ender İmrek, Beyza Metin, Akif Burak Atlar and Haluk Yüksel were also detained, according to daily Hürriyet.

A police crackdown is continuing in the streets around Taksim Square, while the square is empty and totally under police control.

During the operation, an unidentified man opened fire into the air in İmam Adnan Sokak near İstiklal Avenue and the police are searching for him, daily Hürriyet reported.

Thousands of people had been preparing to visit Gezi Park tonight, after it was opened to the public with an official ceremony attended by Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu and Mayor Kadir Topbaş today. It had been emptied and closed off in a brutal police crackdown on June 15.

Three hours after the reopening ceremony, police closed entrances not only to the park, but also the roads leading to the city center, including Harbiye, Gümüşsuyu and İstiklal Avenue, the most populated point of the city.

After the police intervention, Gov. Mutlu criticized the Taksim Solidarity Platform’s calls to gather in Gezi Park on Twitter.

“Many calls are being made to occupy the park and make it an avenue for unpermitted demonstrations,” he tweeted, later telling television reporters that the park would remain closed for as long as the protests continue.

“Gezi Park is open. But unfortunately, it will remain closed as long as the incidents and problems continue. We don’t demand this. It cannot be approved that the demonstrators are turning the park into a place of unrest,” said Gov. Mutlu, according to Doğan News Agency video footage.

 

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