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Gezi Park rebuilds, digs in for more clashes

Organizers vow protests will continue


by Steve Dorsey, The Media Line

June 13, 2013 | 9:50 am

Demonstrators form a human chain in front of security forces at Taksim square in central Istanbul on June 12. Photo by Murad Sezer/Reuters

Demonstrators form a human chain in front of security forces at Taksim square in central Istanbul on June 12. Photo by Murad Sezer/Reuters

This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

By nightfall the Gezi Park protesters had cleaned up the trampled tents and trash left behind from crowds fleeing police during clashes in adjacent Taksim Square.

Thousands joined together again in song as a local musician played the piano, vendors were back selling cheap protective masks against tear gas and smoke from grilled meat filled the air.

But it was a very different atmosphere from previous long nights of demonstrations - the dark sky was empty of the hundreds of rising red glowing Chinese lanterns that symbolized hope, police water cannons were trained on Gezi Park protesters waiting for any flare ups and several hundred riot police stood ready behind a wall of plexiglass shields just feet away in Taksim Square.

Protest leaders said they will not let police and government officials pressure them into leaving, despite new calls Wednesday by Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to clear out the park—which has become the last stronghold for anti-government demonstrators.

“We are staying here while we wait for police,” protest leader Nail Ocal told The Media Line. “It will continue. There is no limit.”

But Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is determined to end the protests that have spread across his country, including to his doorstep in the capital of Ankara.

Turkish media reported Erdogan has instructed his interior minister to quickly end the protests in Gezi Park.

It may be easy for authorities to clear out the park with tear gas and stun grenades, but protesters say the call for change has become too large to dampen.

The movement has grown to include more than just college students and artists, entertainers and doctors in dozens of cities and villages have joined the ranks of the protestors.

Earlier this week, thousands of lawyers dressed in black robes stormed out of Istanbul's main courthouse protesting the arrest of their colleagues in a similar demonstration just the day before.

Gezi Park protesters told The Media Line they expect demonstrations to continue, despite any anticipated police action against them.

“People have put their lives on the line for this,” 60-year-old Sibel Bulay told The Media Line. “So you can't just say: 'we're tired, let's go.'”

While many political groups opposed to the government have called on members to join the protests, there is no clear leader.

However, there may be one demand, according to Bulay.

“Ultimately, what people want is to have a say in how we're being governed. And the biggest thing is: don't tell me how to live my life.”

Protesters said they will not leave until they see some element of change in how their government operates.

Of course, many are still demanding an end to plans for development of Gezi Park. It was those government plans that sparked the demonstrations more than two weeks ago.

In what may be viewed as an “olive branch,” the AKP has said it will consider holding a referendum on the future of the park.

But one protester, who this reporter first met while the middle-aged man was dodging a police water cannon and shielding himself from clouds of tear gas earlier this week, told The Media Line the protests are not about Gezi.

“People just want freedom here, because the government is pushing laws against the people,” said the man who refused to give his name.

A law banning advertising of alcohol, and its sale during certain hours, is among the concerns of protesters. Proposed changes to the constitution and restrictions on the freedom of the press also remain worrisome. 

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