Middle East Today: Turkey — How Serious Are the Protests? / June 1, 2013 | Scott Lucas in EA Live, EA Middle East & Turkey

Turkey: How It All Started? Police Pepper-Spray Woman in Istanbul’s Taksim Square – Turkey: Prime Minister Defiant Over Protests

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now (0950 GMT) speaking about the police attacks on protesters, is defiant — he says of those who are demonstrating about the re-development of Gezi Park, “There are games being played….Nobody has the right to protest against the law and democracy.”

Erdogan said that police made mistakes in the use of pepper spray and tear gas on demonstrators and that the Ministry of Interior will investigate this; however, Taksim Square — where the protesters sat in for four days before the police assault on Friday — cannot be a “safe haven” for demonstrations. He insisted that “illegal organisations [were] provoking naive protesters”.

The Prime Minister, invoking history and ideology, said that he will persist in the plans to turn the green space of Gezi Park into a shopping mall, housed in a replica Ottoman-era military barracks.

Erdogan declared that those opposing “urban transformation projects” want “our people to live in shanty homes”. Speaking more widely, Erdogan insisted his Government reflects the will of the people and the opposition should act through the ballot box and not on the streets. He is confident, however, of winning any challenge: “Don’t compete with us. If you gather 200,000 people, I can gather a million.”

Turkey: More Police Tear Gas in Taksim Square

An AFP reporter says that police have fired more tear gas this morning at protesters who gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc has criticised the security forces, “I think it would be better to try to convince those who say they do not want a shopping mall here [in Gezi Park] than using pepper gas on them.”

Turkey: The Crowds on the Bosporus Bridge

Turkey: Protests Escalate After Police Attacks on Friday

Protests escalated in Turkish cities last night after police, using tear gas and water cannon, tried to disperse demonstrators in Istanbul’s main Taksim Square on Friday afternoon. The protesters were in the fourth day of a sit-in challenging the Erdogan Government’s plan to cover Istanbul’s Gezi Park — the last major green space in the city — with a replica Ottoman-era military barracks housing a shopping mall.

More than 60 people were detained and at least 100 were injured, two seriously.

Among the injured were opposition Peace and Democracy Party deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder, journalist Ahmet Şık, and photojournalists Osman Orsal and Emrah Gürel.

Protesters defied the police attack, continuing their sit-in, while demonstrations spread last night to Ankara and Izmir. An EA correspondent reports protests in Bodrum, Eskisehir, Bolu, Hopa, Konya, Izmit, Adana and Bursa.

An Istanbul court later ordered the suspension of operations to clear trees from Gezi Park in preparation for the re-development.

Government supporters and protesters clash last night in the Tophane section: