Turkish anti-government protesters continue to camp at Istanbul’s Gezi Park despite a fierce crackdown by the riot police.
The nearby Taksim Square, the heart of Turkey’s ongoing anti-government protests, was covered with debris on Wednesday morning after a night of intense clashes between protesters and the riot police.
Turkish police tried to push protesters out of the square by using tear gas and water cannons. But defiant demonstrators responded by hurling rocks and fireworks.
The anti-government protests which began two weeks ago have now spread across the country. The demonstrators are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On Tuesday, Erdogan defended the crackdown saying he would stand firm and maintain his stance on the protesters.
The unrest began on May 31 after the police broke up a sit-in held at Taksim Square to protest against a proposal to demolish Gezi Park.
Over the next 12 days, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters held demonstrations in 78 cities across the country.
According to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, four people have died, including a policeman, and about 5,000 people have been injured in the protests.
The protesters say Gezi Park, which is a traditional gathering point for rallies and demonstrations as well as a popular tourist destination, is Istanbul’s last public green space.
Erdogan has been harshly criticized for the way he has handled the crisis, and Amnesty International has also censured the Turkish police for using excessive force against peaceful protesters.
According to a number of political analysts, the popularity of the ruling Justice and Development Party — which has won three straight elections — could decline if Erdogan does not resolve the crisis in a way acceptable to the general public.
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