ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish riot police fired water cannon to disperse thousands of anti-government demonstrators in Istanbul yesterday, as Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan castigated those behind protests he said had played into the hands of Turkey’s enemies.
The latest unrest in Taksim Square punctured six days of relative calm in Turkey’s biggest city, although it was a long way from matching the ferocity of previous clashes there and in other cities that began more than three weeks ago.
Demonstrators threw carnations at a phalanx of officers carrying shields who slowly advanced towards them, flanked by water cannon, to clear the square.
“Police, don’t betray your people!” activists shouted after they had been scattered into streets leading to Taksim. Witnesses said police also used teargas to disperse protesters in nearby streets in cat-and-mouse clashes.
In the capital Ankara, riot police fired water cannon and teargas to break up hundreds of protesters, some of them shouting anti-Erdogan slogans, and at one location they built barricades to block a main street, according to witnesses.
Earlier, Erdogan told thousands of supporters in the Black Sea city of Samsun that the unrest played into the hands of Turkey’s enemies.
A crowd of some 15,000 of his AK Party faithful cheered and waved Turkish flags as he called on the public to give their answer to demonstrations at the ballot box when Turkey holds municipal elections next March.
The rally in the party stronghold was the fourth in a series of mass meetings which Erdogan has called since protests began in Istanbul at the start of June in an unprecedented challenge on the streets to his 10-year rule.
The unrest was triggered when police used force against campaigners opposed to plans to develop Gezi Park which adjoins Taksim Square, but they quickly turned into a broader show of anger at what critics call Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism.