Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday he would push ahead with plans to redevelop İstanbul's central Taksim Square despite protests in which hundreds of people have been injured, while acknowledging that police used excessive force during the protests.
"There have been errors in actions of security forces especially with regard to use of pepper gas," Okay, I accept. I have ordered the Interior Ministry to investigate this. It was excessive,” Erdoğan said while speaking at the general assembly of the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM) on Saturday.
“I am requesting that the protestors immediately end these demonstrations,” he said.
Yet he defied calls to withdraw police from Taksim. “Police were there, are there and will be there in Taksim,” he said.
Erdoğan also said the current work in Taksim has nothing to do with the project to build a replica of the Topçu Barracks or a mall, while vowing to rebuild the barracks. “We will rebuild the Topçu Barracks. But the current work is not related to this,” he added.
“It is unfair to label this government anti-green and anti-environmentalist,” he said.
“I want my nation to see the game some circles are playing in the country,” Erdoğan said.
Noting that everyone has the right to demonstrate in this country, he said yet nobody has the right to occupy somewhere. “Nobody has the right to raise tension in this country claiming that trees are being chopped down,” he added.
“Everyone should know that Turkey is a country where the parliamentarian system fully functions. Every method other than elections is anti-democratic. I am not saying the government is not accountable. We are not claiming that the government whatever it wants. But, just like how majority cannot put pressure on minority, the minority also cannot impose its will on majority,” he said.
Stating that whoever has a problem with the actions of the government can make their choices in elections, Erdoğan said all attempts to change the government other than through elections are anti-democratic and illegal.
Erdoğan, who earlier said the new barracks to be rebuilt will become a shopping mall and a residential area, said the building can also serve as a city museum.
Dozens of people have been injured and many others detained in the past two days in İstanbul and across Turkey after a police crackdown on demonstrators protesting the demolition of the Gezi Park in Taksim. The protest grew out of anger at police's heavy-handed tactics to break up a peaceful sit-in to protect the park in İstanbul's central Taksim Square on Friday.