The Turkish government launched violent raids, mass arrests, and torrents of tear gas and water cannon fire across the country Tuesday in an effort to quell the widespread uprisings against the ruling AKP party, now well into their third week.
Police are shooting water cannons filled with damaging chemicals, say Turkish protesters on a Wikileaks Forum showing photographs of demonstrators with burns across their legs and backs.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Tuesday that the crackdown will only grow from here, and his administration has declared the uprisings illegal.
The most recent violence follows raids over the weekend that led to 441 arrests.
CBS reports that police are specifically going after left-wing and radical groups in Ankara and Istanbul, according to Turkey's NTV television station.
Nearly 300 were arrested in in Taksim Square Monday night as they stood silently in a show of passive resistance, The Guardian reports.
The New York Times adds that the government is not just going after people in the streets, but also targeting users of social media:
On Monday, the interior minister, Muammer Guler, said that new regulations were being prepared to police social media outlets, aimed at people who use Twitter or Facebook, for “inciting people or coordinating and directing events that would cause social incidents or endanger material and physical public safety through manipulative, false news.”
Meanwhile, clashes in the streets are growing increasingly violent as riot police shoot tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets at the protesters.
This comes after five Turkish trade unions, representing 800,000 workers, launched a general strike on Monday.
Time Magazine reports that protesters are determined to stand their ground:
“People are raising their voices against the excessive use of police force,” said Koray Caliskan, a political science professor at Istanbul’s Bosphorus University. Demonstrators, he said, were showing they were no longer cowed by authorities, and “the fear threshold has been broken.”
The U.S.-backed PM's use of excessive violence against protesters, that has left four people dead and over 7,500 injured according to the Turkish Medical Association, suggests the PM fears a serious threat to this rule. This is supported by a recent poll by the Ankara-based Metropoll Strategic and Social Research Center finds that the prime minster's popularity is tanking.