On Saturday (June 22), thousands of people gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square to commemorate four protesters and a policeman killed in earlier protests. Riot police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowd in the first clash in Istanbul for almost a week. There were also clashes between the protestors and with police in the capital Ankara over the weekend. Protests, especially in Istanbul, had eased since last Saturday after police cleared Istanbul’s Gezi Park, the epicentre of the unrest. The interior ministry said about 2.5mn people took part in demonstrations in 79 cities since the unrest began on May 31. Around 5,000 people have been detained and 4,000 protesters and 600 police injured, according to the ministry.
Meanwhile PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP held mass rallies in the Black Sea city of Samsun on Saturday and in the eastern city of Erzurum on Sunday. The AKP has called five rallies to show its strength and popularity so far since anti-government protests began. Erdogan continued to make confrontational statements at the rallies. He told his supporters that the protests were part of an international conspiracy, the protests serve the country’s enemies, and the protestors insulted Islam. He also defended the tactics of the police. Erdogan has been holding rallies in Turkey’s pious Anatolian heartland, the AKP’s stronghold, in a move to keep his conservative supporter base intact ahead of local elections scheduled for March 2014. The anti-government protests and AKP rallies only show the deep division between Erdogan’s conservative supporters and mostly middle-class, liberal protestors. Turkish society seems to have become more polarised than ever.
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