Hundreds of people join protest at Taksim's Gezi Park
Protestors in Taksim Gezi Park had to leave the park when police used tear gas to break up the protest. (Photo: AA, İbrahim Halil Ekinci)
Hundreds of people joined protestors who have been camping for the past three days in Taksim's Gezi Park to stand guard against the demolition of the park's walls and the uprooting of trees, in act of solidarity with activists after leaving their workplaces in the afternoon.
When people began to get out of their workplaces with the arrival of evening, number of protesters increased with new joinings. Hundreds of people joined the protestors who set up camps at the Gezi Park.
Beşiktaş football club's well-known fan group Çarşı also attended at protests along with hundreds of fans in an act to display their sensitiveness on a critical social issue that further alineated society from government's mega-construction projects which polarized the country over its implications on environment.
Earlier in on the day the group which had been camping at the site of protest for the past three days were dispersed by riot police who arrived at the scene early on Thursday with riot control vehicles and pepper spray.
The group resisted the police but had to leave the area when officers used pepper spray and tear gas to break up the protest. They also set fire to three tents put up by protestors.
Construction workers immediately started their work after the group was dispersed. They also brought down trees that had been felled the day before but had been replanted by the demonstrators.
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder later arrived at the scene and stood in front of a bulldozer after bypassing a police barrier and forced the machine to stop, in a repeat of an action he took the previous day. The protestors were returning to the scene of the demolition, according to the latest reports.
At least 1,000 people gathered in the park on Thursday.
In a statement he made at the park on Thursday, Önder claimed there was no legal basis for felling the trees. Önder said: “The municipality is destroying the trees, but there is no ruling for their decision. There are people here from all segments of society, ages and backgrounds. We are not the ones who should be stopped for defending our right to breathe. Those who should be stopped are the bulldozers that are working illegally and without licenses.” He also praised the solidarity of the Taksim defenders.
Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Gürsel Tekin was also at the park on Thursday. He said a deputy from the CHP would be supporting the protestors every day.
Another CHP deputy chairman, Umut Oran, was also at Gezi Park on Thursday. “The mayors entrusted these cities should convince the people, and if not, this project should be canceled,” he said.
Groups such as the Workers' Party, the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers' Unions (DİSK), the İstanbul Bar Association, the Social Democracy Party and civil society organization Halk Evleri are also supporting the protestors.
Within the scope of the Taksim pedestrianization project, approved by the government in February last year, the Gezi Park walls facing the Elmadağ area were demolished by construction workers on Monday night. Shortly after this, a group of protesters including members of the Taksim Platform, a group formed to oppose the project, came to the park to prevent further uprooting of the trees and demolition of walls.
Commenting on the protesters, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that the government has made its decision on the demolition and there will not be a U-turn made in this regard.
CHP's Tekin responded to Erdoğan on Thursday, saying he was going to file a criminal complaint against Erdoğan regarding his remarks. “The prime minister has no power over deciding about a city in no legal system in the world,” he said. Addressing İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş, Tekin said: “You can't just destroy a city based on the request of a dictator. I call on Mr. President to act.”
(Photos: AA, Cihan, Today's Zaman)