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Protesters Face Tear Gas, Water Cannons, and Machete-Wielding Assailants in Taksim Park
Video of attack goes viral prompting arrests
Tear gas and water cannons rained down on roughly 3000 protesters Saturday as Turkish police attacked a group of demonstrators assembled in Istanbul's Taksim Square.
The demonstrators were attempting to enter the adjacent Gezi Park, a section of green space that the government had planned to raze and replace with a shopping center sparking a month of protests and fierce backlash by law enforcement.
According to AFP, Saturday's organizers were planning to break through police cordons of the park and serve a notice to authorities of a court decision that has annulled the redevelopment plans—what many are considering a victory for the protests, though the court's decision is not yet final.
The nationwide protests have largely dwindled although thousands of demonstrators have been gathering at Taksim every Saturday for the past three weeks, demanding justice for a protester who was killed by police fire.
This time, some protesters argued with police standing guard at the entrance of Gezi Park. Police then pushed protesters away from the square with pressurized water and tear gas. They also chased protesters down two main streets off Taksim, firing tear gas.
This video from Italy's Euro News shows police vehicles bulldozing through the crowds:
And another video, taken from inside a restaurant, shows an eye-witness account of a TOMA truck chasing down protesters with water cannons:
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports that following the police attack, an amateur video surfaced showing two men armed with machetes attacking protesters who were fleeing from the tear gas near Taksim Square.
"One of the men was seen kicking a woman on her back while holding a machete in his hand," they write, adding that—following the video's release—Turkish security forces were criticized for not intervening against the machete-wielding attackers.
The video has since gone viral and according to Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu, the two men pictures have been found and arrested.
According to the Turkish Medical Association, four people were killed and about 7,500 wounded in the police crackdown since demonstrations began in late May.