UPDATE (12:45 PM): Turkish activists engaged in nationwide protest against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have released a set of demands on Wednesday in a move that shows the movement has gained political confidence as a result of the surge in support it has received.
As reported by local news outlets, the demands are as follows:
- Gezi Park should remain as a park with no construction permitted on its grounds;
- The Atatürk Culture Center should not be demolished;
- Law enforcement officers who have escalated the violence should be investigated and removed from office;
- The use of pepper gas should be banned;
- All protesters under custody should be unconditionally released;
- All obstacles preventing freedom of expression should be lifted.
Meanwhile, the protest movement gained additional support on Wednesday as some of the country's most powerful trade unions staged protests in the capital city of Ankara in solidarity with Gezi and anti-Erdogan activists.
Thousands of striking workers were in Ankara’s Kızılay Square on June 5 in order to protest over the crackdown on the Gezi Park unrest.
The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), the Public Workers Unions Confederation (KESK), the Turkish Doctors’ Union (TTB) and the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) as well as members of left-wing political parties and members of civil society organizations gathered in Kızılay, with other protesters in the square also supporting them.
Crowds voiced their demands by chanting songs, holding banners, Turkish flags and Atatürk posters. People in Turkey have reacted against the “I had more votes in ballots. Therefore I can do whatever I want,” understanding of democracy shown by the government, Secretary General of KESK Ismal Hakkı Tombul said, addressing the members of the union. Gezi Park protests have come up against government pressure, he said.
“People who have claimed their land, their water are accused of being bandits. People seeking freedom and democracy are described as marauders,” Tombul noted.
EARLIER: An apology from Turkey's deputy prime minister saying the violent police crackdown against protesters was "wrong and unjust" may be too little, too late as anti-government protesters brushed off the remarks and continued their demand for reforms on Wednesday.
“They turned this innocent demo into violence… We will never surrender to the police. We want government to step down,” one protester in Istanbul told EuroNews.
“They have no mercy. The police are attacking as if they want to kill us. We don’t trust the police. We only trust ourselves.” said another supporter of Turkey's new social movement.
And with scenes like this—a collection of video from the last week of protests—it may be a while before those protesting the government and police aggression take seriously the apologies from the ruling class:
Despite a relative calm in Istanbul, the government crackdown continued aggressively in Ankara and other cities overnight as dozens of youth activists were detained for posting information about the protests on social media outlets and accused of “spreading untrue information,” according to the state news agency Anadolu.
Twitter continued to cover the events nationwide:
And new polling released in Turkey revealed a further sense of what's fueling the protests. The
A majority of the protesters demanded respect of liberties and an end to police violence while rejecting a military coup against the government.
The rate of those who demanded “an end to police violence” was 96.7 percent, while 96.1 percent demanded “respect of liberties from now on.” Only 37 percent demanded a new political party be established. A total of 79.5 percent of respondents said they did not want a military coup to intervene in Parliament, while 6.6 percent of respondents demanded a military coup. [...]
Out of 3,000 respondents, 75.8 percent said they had joined the recent protests in Turkey by going out to the streets.
Many people made noise from their balconies by hitting pots or turning off and on their lights in the evenings to support the protests across the country, which started in Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square to stop a shopping mall project that was to replace Gezi Park there.
Meanwhile, thealso reported the mood at Taksim Square in Istanbul—where the protests first took root—was cautiously jovial as a the movement known as Occupy Gezi formalized some of its organizing and celebrated the manner in which their efforts have paid off:
The heart of the protests in Istanbul's Gezi Park continued in a more festive mood, a stark contrast to last week's brutal police raids on the area. The protesters who took back the park on June 1 were more organized, as medical and legal assistance teams were set up in the square and park. Unlike in previous days' protests, many young students were seen in the park with their fathers and mothers, or even grandparents. Pop artist Şebnem Ferah also gave a concert during the night.
That doesn't tell the whole story of the movement, however, as clashes continued in other parts of the country:
Tension was still palpable a few hundred meters further away in the Beşiktaş district, where violent clashes had also broken out over the weekend. Small scuffles took place between protesters and police near the road leading to Taksim.
Ankara, another hot spot of the protests where police had led a brutal crackdown against protesters over the weekend, also saw less incidents. Police forces, who had been instructed not to use tear gas unless they were attacked, held back from intervening, while protesters offered them cloves and took pictures in front of police tanks. However, some clashes were reported near the central Kızılay district around midnight.
And there was more sad news for protesters as the death of a third protester was announced on Wednesday. Ethem Sarısülük, an activist who received massive head trauma after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister in the capital city of Ankara, succumbed to his injuries.
Offering background on the protest movement, the Associated Press explains:
Thousands have joined anti-government rallies across Turkey since Friday, when police launched a predawn raid against a peaceful sit-in protesting plans to uproot trees in Istanbul's main Taksim Square. Since then, the demonstrations by mostly secular-minded Turks have spiraled into Turkey's biggest anti-government disturbances in years and have spread to many of the biggest cities.
Protests were directed at what critics say is Erdogan's aggressive and authoritarian style of governance. Many accuse him of forcing his conservative, religious outlook on lives in this mainly Muslim but secular nation. Erdogan rejects the accusations, says he respects all lifestyles and insists he is the "servant" not the "master" of the people.