Protesters clash with police in Istanbul, June 1, 2013.
Protesters clash with police in Istanbul. Photo by AFP
Text size
related tags
AP
urkish protesters shout anti-government slogans at the city's main Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, June 1, 2013. Photo by AP

ISTANBUL - Police used tear gas to break up protests on Sunday as Turkey erupted over the weekend into its fiercest demonstrations in years, with 939 people arrested in more than 90 separate demonstrations around the country.

More than 1,000 people have been wounded in Istanbul and several hundred more in Ankara, according to medics.

Amnesty International on Sunday also referred to reports of two deaths in the protest, but that information could not be confirmed.

On Sunday, Taksim Square was almost empty as rain set in. Protesters left at the scene said they expect demonstrators to return in the afternoon, after the weather improves.

The unrest was triggered by protests against government plans to build replica Ottoman-era barracks to house shops or apartments in Taksim, long a venue for political protest. But it has widened into a broader show of defiance against Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

LIVE BLOG

22:54 P.M. At Taksim Square, tens of thousands of protesters celebrate into the night, with no police forces in sight.

Meanwhile, thousands of masked teenagers are fighting police forces on the road leading from Taksim Square to the Bosphorus. Youths are trying to erect makeshift road blocks and set car tires alight. Turkish police respond by firing heavy tear gas. Protesters fear police are planning to climb up the mountain and break into Taksim Square, despite promises not to do so.

10:00 P.M. Police fire tear gas in Ankara, Izmir, Adana (Reuters)

7:30 P.M. Syrian authorities, battling a rebel uprising in which 80,000 people have been killed, issued a travel warning advising its citizens against traveling to neighboring Turkey for safety reasons. "The demands of the Turkish people don't deserve all this violence," Information Minister Omran Zoabi says. "If Erdogan is unable to pursue non-violent means, he should resign." (Jack Khoury)

7:00 P.M. Police in Ankara are firing tear gas at protesters, who are retaliating with stones and fireworks, Al Jazeera reports. According to the report, the demonstrators have blocked roads leading to Prime Minister Erdogan's office. The situation in central Istanbul's Taksim Square, meanwhile, appears to remain peaceful. 

5:12 P.M. Medical staff say more than 1,000 people have been injured in Istanbul and several hundred more in Ankara since protests began Friday.

5:09 P.M. Police use tear gas on protesters in Ankara. Clashes said to be relatively minor compared with major violence in Turkey's biggest cities in the previous two days.

Calling protesters "a few looters", Erdogan says he will press ahead with redeveloping Istanbul's Taksim Square.

Erdogan addressed critics who called him a "dictator", saying, "We have carried Turkey into a new era ... If they call someone who is a servant of his country, then I have nothing to say to them."

1:35 P.M. A group of young men marching to Taksim Square are chanting: "We are all soldiers of Mustafa Kemal [Ataturk]."

1:33 P.M. Protesters are marching down Istiklal, heading to Taksim Square, while shouting: "This is our Taksim, this is our Istanbul."

1:25 P.M.  The protesters at Taksim Square represent all sectors of Turkish society. Though flags hanging from poles and walls of buildings around the plaza are mostly of left-wing radical groups, some protesters did not identify themselves as supporters of the left. Their only demand, they said, is democracy

Despite the secular dominant majority, some of the demonstrators identified as Muslims. A few men with beards and women wearing veils said they identified as members of the "radical Muslims," a religious organization that opposes President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

12:51 P.M. No official statement yet on protesters killed during the demonstrations over the weekend. Amnesty International refers to reports of two dead, people in Taksim Square claim the number is higher.

12:20 P.M. Thousands are now arriving at Taksim Square. There is not a single policeman in sight.

12:18 P.M. The once sacred Ataturk War of Independence monument, at the beginning of Istiklal Avenue, is now covered with left-wing and LGBT flags.

11:22 A.M. A few protesters start collecting trash around Taksim Square. This reminds me of Cairo's Tahrir Square, though I am trying not to compare.

11:20 A.M. Despite the number of rocks that were thrown over the weekend, it's amazing to see that there are no shattered windows around Taksim Square.

11:08 A.M. Only about 20 protesters are currently standing at Taksim Square, in the rain. "Police are tired, we are not," they say, promising thousands will return in the afternoon.

11:00 A.M. This is a very sensitive time in the Middle East, a time of conflicts and revolutions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday's cabinet meeting. "Israel has no interest in taking part in the conflicts around us," he added. (Barak Ravid)

10:26 A.M. While Taksim Square was quiet during the night, street battles occurred in the Istanbul suburb of Besiktas. A cloud of tear gas was seen over the area until 4 A.M.

10:25 A.M.  Reports claim that mobile phones were blocked overnight. Is Erdogan copying Mubarak's tactics?

10:20 A.M. Broken curbstones that demonstrators last night hurled at police are now lying around the streets surrounding Taksim Square.

9:30 A.M. Street leading to Taksim Square is closed off.

4:30 A.M. Protesters lit fires and scuffled with police in parts of Istanbul and Ankara early on Sunday, but the streets were generally quieter than the first two days of unrest. Hundreds of protesters set fires in the Tunali district of the capital Ankara, while riot police fired tear gas and pepper spray to hold back groups of stone-throwing youths near Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office in Istanbul.

Istanbul's central Taksim Square, where the protests have been focused, was quieter after riot police pulled back their armored trucks late on Saturday. Demonstrators lit bonfires amid overturned vehicles, broken glass and rocks and played cat-and-mouse on side streets with riot police, who fired occasional volleys of tear gas.

Social media users' photos from Turkey. It is impossible to verify their credibility.