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Turkish protesters reject government apology, continue demos

 
 
 
 
 
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Anti-government protesters at Istanbul’s Taksim Square on June 4, 2013

Turkish protesters have rejected the government’s apology for excessive violence by police and its appeal to end days of unrest.

On Tuesday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told a news conference in Ankara, “The excessive violence that was used in the first instance against those who were behaving with respect for the environment is wrong and unfair. I apologize to those citizens.”

Arinc called for the unrest to end, saying the protests had been taken over by “terrorist elements”.

The demonstrators took to the streets again on Tuesday evening in defiance of their government’s apology and plea to end the protests, which have escalated into deadly unrest in cities across Turkey.

The protesters flooded Istanbul’s Taksim Square, yelling defiance at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who earlier dismissed them as “extremists” and “vandals”.

“The vandals are here! Where is Tayyip?” yelled the crowd.

They demanded the resignation of Erdogan’s government.

“If they step back, if they change something in Turkey, the conservatism and the things they’ve done, then maybe the crowd can go home,” said Didem Kul, a 24-year-old student in Taksim Square.

“But we can’t go home without having a demonstration. And even if we go home, the feelings won’t change.”

Earlier in the day, the Turkish Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions (KESK), which represents 240,000 employees, launched a two-day strike to express solidarity with the protesters.

KESK spokesman Baki Cinar also rejected the government’s conciliatory move.

“The apology is just damage control and only because they know they are stuck,” Cinar said.

Since Friday, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have held demonstrations in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Mugla, Antalya, and many other cities and towns.

According to the Turkish Human Rights Association, two protesters died and over 2,800 protesters were injured in the past five days. It added that 791 protesters were arrested by the police.

The anti-government unrest began after police broke up a sit-in staged in Taksim Square on Friday to protest against the demolition of Gezi Park.

The protesters say Gezi Park, which is a traditional gathering point for rallies and demonstrations as well as a popular tourist destination, is the city’s last green public space.

Amnesty International censured the Turkish police for the tactics they used to control the protests.

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