Erdogan Must Resign, Chants Ring out in Turkey

 

Thousands of people are in Taksim Square after days of unrest sparked by plans to redevelop nearby Gezi Park.

Police have fired tear gas and water cannon several times in recent days to break up the demonstrations, according to BBC.

PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the park development will go ahead.

Murat Yetkin in the pro-secular, English-language daily Hurriyet says the "disproportionate" response of police to the protests "has managed to turn a pacifist and modest protest into a public protest movement".

Ali Bayramoglu, writing in the pro-government Islamist daily Yeni Safak asks how the authorities allowed the situation to get so bad. "If there is a public reaction, why won't it [the government] halt the project, even temporarily, and talk to the protestors?"

In Islamist daily Today's Zaman, Ihsan Yilmaz says that if the government does not listen to the protesters the park issue "may be the last straw and may pave the way for the eventual electoral loss of the city". 

    Press slams handling of protests

The protesters say the park is one of the few green spaces left in Istanbul, and that the government is ignoring their appeals for it be saved.

Their protests initially began as a sit-in in the park, but erupted in clashes on Friday as police fired tear gas to try to clear them out.

Correspondents say that what was initially a local issue has spiralled into widespread anti-government unrest and anger over the perceived "Islamisation" of Turkey.

One woman told Agence France-Presse: " they want to impose their vision all the while pretending to respect democracy."

Another, Oral Goktas, said the protest had brought together people from many different backgrounds.

"This has become a protest against the government, against Erdogan taking decisions like a king," she told Reuters news agency.

 

The perception that police had been heavy-handed by firing tear gas and water cannon - a view adopted by many of the country's mainstream media - also fuelled the unrest. Dozens of people have been injured in the clashes.

Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper quoted police as saying 138 people were in custody.

In an apparent bid to reduce tensions, police and riot vehicles were withdrawn from the square on Saturday afternoon, and barricades removed, allowing thousands of people to enter the square.

Protests in Ankara continued into Saturday

The scene in the central square appeared to be peaceful, with protesters chanting slogans, dancing and waving banners, some calling for the government to resign.

The US has expressed concern over Turkey's handling of the protests and Amnesty International condemned the police's tactics.

M.D