Protesters in Turkey celebrated their hold – for now – on Istanbul's Taksim Square. But it's unclear what will happen next in the anti-government movement.
Thousands of anti-government Turkish protesters turned Taksim Square into a must-see local tourism site today, posing on burned-out vehicles and barricades after two days of street battles, as the prime ministerial target of their anger defended his policies.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed the protests against his rule, saying he had “no words” for those who “call someone who has served the people a ‘dictator.’ ”
Mr. Erdogan said: “I am not the master of the people. Dictatorship does not run in my blood or in my character. I am the servant of the people.”
Tens of thousands of mostly secular protesters waged pitched battles with police, and finally seized control of Istanbul’s central Taksim Square on Saturday afternoon. What started as a small sit-in protest over the protection of trees in Gezi Park, due for demolition to make a shopping mall, turned into a wave of anger against what protesters see as Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian rule.
In the exact spot where yesterday protesters choked by volleys of tear gas tried to wash their eyes of the sting, today they posed for photos of each other climbing on makeshift barricades with arms raised in triumph.
Despite the festive ambiance and proclamations of “victory” today, many questions remain about how this protest – conducted largely by a secular minority, against the decade-long leadership of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) – will change long-term politics in Turkey.
Also uncertain is whether even the coming days will see a peaceful resolution and calming of tension, or further eruptions of violence with police trying again to clear the square. Turkey’s Interior Ministry announced that nearly 1,000 arrests had been made, and that protests spread to dozens of cities in half of Turkey’s provinces. Violent clashes between police and protesters in the capital, Ankara, continued today, unabated.