Unrest grows as US voices concern over violence at Turkey demonstrations

Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan signals he could mobilise mass support to crush protests

Riot police use tear gas to disperse the crowd during an anti-government protest in Istanbul yesterday.

Riot police use tear gas to disperse the crowd during an anti-government protest in Istanbul yesterday.

 


The US last night called for an investigation into the political violence in Turkey and urged restraint on all sides following the fifth day of escalating nationwide protests against the rule of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In remarks likely to provoke Mr Erdogan, US secretary of state John Kerry said: “We are concerned by the reports of excessive use of force by police. We obviously hope that there will be a full investigation of those incidents and full restraint from the police force.”

Earlier yesterday, the prime minister warned protesters against taking the country’s political disputes on to the streets, signalling he could mobilise his mass popular support to crush the demonstrations.

As sporadic clashes between protesters and riot police continued in Izmir, Ankara and Istanbul, and the first death was confirmed, Mr Erdogan lashed out at critics, delivering an uncompromising message after a week of the worst violent turmoil of his decade in power.

Turkey’s leftist Public Workers Unions Confederation (KESK), which represents 240,000 members, said it would hold a “warning strike” today and tomorrow to protest over the crackdown on what had begun as peaceful protests.


Invoking that mandate
Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development party (AKP) took just over half the national vote in the last elections in 2011. Invoking that mandate, the prime minister said: “There is 50 per cent and we can barely keep them at home. But we have called on them to calm down.”

The turmoil started a week ago as a small environmental protest in an Istanbul park against redevelopment plans, but quickly mushroomed into weekend clashes with riot police in the city and across half the country. The focus of the protest shifted from the building project to Mr Erdogan.

The prime minister’s dismissive attitude to the mass demonstrations contrasted increasingly with President Abdullah Gul, who sounded conciliatory and rebutted Mr Erdogan’s message. “Democracy does not mean elections alone,” he said.

The prime minister has challenged the rights of the initial protesters in a central Istanbul park to launch a sit-in opposing a redevelopment scheme demolishing the green space to make way for a shopping complex, mosque and replica of an old military barracks.

Government data showed 1,500 arrests in Ankara, 300 in Izmir, and 370 in Adana.
– (Guardian service)