Turkish clashes re-erupt as Gezi Park opens and closes

By bne IntelliNews July 9, 2013

bne -

Turkish authorities reopened Gezi Park to the public on July 8, only close it again just three hours later as clashes between protestors and police broke out. The swift clamp down illustrates that Ankara likely faces a drawn out summer of demonstrations, and could do with finding a route to deal more subtly with the demands from the street.

Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu declared the park, which lies just off the symbolic Taksim Square, open to the public on July 8 - around four weeks after it was closed. However, with demonstrators quickly gathering, the city authorities ordered its closure again just three hours later. Security forces were soon back on the street using water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to force protesters away from the area, AP reports.

Up to 30 people were rounded up and detained by the police. Mutlu announced on his Twitter feed that the park had been closed due to "many calls to turn Gezi Park into an area of unlawful demonstrations and occupation."

The small green space - a rarity in centre of the giant city - was the epicenter of mass anti-government protests that erupted across the country last month after a small environmental protest against plans to develop it was viciously put down by police. Two weeks of mass protest followed in cities around the country.

At least four people were killed, and thousands injured, as police fought crowds filled out by an increasing variety of interest groups. However, the focus was clearly locked on to what the crowds see as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's increasingly Islamist and authoritarian rule.

The PM has maintained a confrontational approach to the protests throughout. Although the action on the streets has lost momentum since he ordered Gazi Park cleared on June 15, the situation in Istanbul remains tense. Just how tense was illustrated by the fact that the clashes broke out instantly on the reopening of the park.

Further than that, the news shows Erdogan and the ruling AKP the error of their ways should they be under any illusion that the "legitimate" protests against the development of the park - as the authorities have called them in a rare effort at striking a concessionary tone - are still the issue. It was announced on July 3 that the PM's personal plan to rebuild an Ottoman-era barracks on Gezi Park has been halted by an Istanbul court.

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