Following a night of clashes between riot police and anti-government protesters in Turkey’s Taksim Square, a tense calm returned to the protest area early Wednesday.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed zero tolerance for the mass demos on Tuesday as police sent large crowds of protesters scrambling with tear gas and jets of water.
Hours earlier, Taksim Square had resembled a battle scene, swathed in acrid smoke as police dispersed tens of thousands of protesters chanting “Erdogan, resign!” and “Resistance!” on the worst night of violence in 12 days of nationwide unrest, AFP news agency reported.
In a live broadcast of the square on Al Arabiya TV, police surrounded protesters and amassed in nearby areas.
By 5:00 am (0200 GMT), refuse trucks were clearing up the empty gas canisters and the remains of broken barricades which had for more than a week blocked all access to the square and neighboring Gezi Park, according to AFP.
The square has been the scene of violent clashes between police and protesters since demonstrations first erupted after police cracked down heavily on May 31 on a campaign to save Istanbul’s Gezi Park from redevelopment.
The police also brought in bulldozers to clear barricades erected by demonstrators.
The assault on Taksim Square surprised protesters, many of whom were dozing in the nearby park, because it came after Prime Minister Erdogan said he would meet with protest leaders on Wednesday, his first major concession since the trouble began.
But the premier made no mention of the olive branch Tuesday and resumed his tough stance against the demonstrators, who have put up the biggest challenge yet to his decade-long rule.
“This episode is now over. We won’t show any more tolerance,” the premier told cheering lawmakers of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in a speech broadcast live on television.
“Can you believe that? They attack Taksim, gas us in the morning just after proposing talks with us?” 23-year-old Yilmaz told AFP.
“We won’t abandon Gezi,” he vowed. “I am not afraid of their water cannon, it’ll be my first shower in three days.”
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