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On Second Day, Anti-Government Protests Swell In Turkey

Turkish protestors and riot policemen clash on Saturday, during a protest against the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park, in Taksim Square in Istanbul.
Bulent Kilic
AFP/Getty Images
Turkish protestors and riot policemen clash on Saturday, during a protest against the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park, in Taksim Square in Istanbul.

What started as a small protest against the redevelopment of a park in Istanbul, Turkey, has spread to other cities and turned into one of the largest government protests in recent memory. While numbers are hard to come by, Al Jazeera reports that about 10,000 people gathered in Ankara chanting "government resign" and "unite against fascism."

NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul that the government is refusing to halt the development project that sparked the demonstrations. Peter sent this report to our Newscast unit:

"As International criticism mounts over the aggressive police tactics used on peaceful demonstrators in Istanbul, prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the protesters should go home.

"'The Taksim project will go ahead,' Erdogan said. 'If you bring 100,000, I'll bring out a million.'

"Analysts say the heavy-handed crackdown which has left at least dozens wounded could damage Turkey's efforts to promote itself as a world tourist destination. Turkey is also in the running to host the 2020 olympic games."

As Scott reported yesterday, the clashes began Friday:

"When police broke up a four-day sit-in by people angered about redevelopment plans for a portion of Taksim Square, known as Gezi Park. The Gezi Park protest started Monday after trees were removed as part of the redevelopment plan. The controversial redevelopment project is aimed at easing congestion around Taksim Square but also involves building a shopping center over Gezi Park."

The New York Times reports that Erdogan asked protesters to take their issues to the ballot box.

"Every four years we hold elections and this nation makes its choice," he said in a televised speech. "Those who have a problem with government's policies can express their opinions within the framework of law and democracy."

Update at 1:03 p.m. ET. Police Pull Out:

The AP has this update:

"Turkish police began to retreat from a main Istanbul square Saturday, taking away barricades and allowing in tens of thousands of protesters in an apparent move to end tensions from two days of anti-government protests."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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