Turkey unrest: Mass rally for Erdogan amid new clashes

The BBC's Chris Morris says Turkish police have cordoned off the area around Taksim Square and neighbouring Gezi Park

Turkey's prime minister has rallied tens of thousands of supporters in Istanbul, telling them it was his duty to clear a city square that has been the focus of anti-government unrest.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied he was a dictator, criticised foreign media and vowed to "identify one by one those who have terrorised the streets".

Unrest has continued in Ankara and Istanbul, with police firing tear gas.

Two trade union groups have called a one-day nationwide strike for Monday.

Baki Cinar, a spokesman for one of the groups, Kesk, told AFP news agency: "Our demand is for police violence to end immediately."

The protests in Turkey began on 28 May against a plan to redevelop Istanbul's Gezi Park, but snowballed into nationwide anti-government protests after the perceived high-handed response of the authorities under their three-term prime minister.

Analysis

Istanbul looks like a divided city more than ever. In Kazlicesme, PM Erdogan addressed tens of thousands of AKP supporters under the banner "Let's ruin this big plot"; while on the roads leading to Taksim Square, thousands are marching, protesting or clashing with the police.

Taksim and Gezi Park are completely cordoned off by the police. Only journalists are allowed in. On a road just off the square, police warned protesters carrying a banner saying: "Happy Father's Day Tayyip" to disperse and soon intervened with tear gas. Reports of clashes, sirens of ambulances from time-to-time - it's been the same cat-and-mouse game for days. Protesters gather, police intervene, protesters disperse, police withdraw, protesters gather again in bigger numbers.

Mr Erdogan has been criticised for not being able to handle this crisis, that his defiant speeches and heavy-handed approach have increased the tension. As the PM addressed tens of thousands and activists called for a million to gather in Taksim, it looks like Istanbul is awaiting another rough night.

Medical officials estimate that 5,000 people have been injured and at least four killed since the protests began.

'Unbearable'

The rally in support of Mr Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), was held in the Kazlicesme district, about 10km (6 miles) from central Istanbul.

The BBC's Chris Morris in Istanbul says this was the perfect day, setting and weather for Mr Erdogan to set out his message of "I am the man in charge".

Mr Erdogan defended Saturday's police action to clear Istanbul's Taksim Square and nearby Gezi Park, saying: "I said we were at an end. That it was unbearable. Yesterday the operation was carried out and it was cleaned up. It was my duty as prime minister."

He criticised the international press and social media for the coverage of the unrest, urging them to be ethical and honest.

"If the international media want a picture of Turkey, the picture is here," he said.

Mr Erdogan denied being an authoritarian leader and said the protests had been manipulated by "terrorists".

He said: "They say 'you are too tough', they say 'dictator'. What kind of a dictator is this who met the Gezi Park occupiers and honest environmentalists. Is there such dictator?

Protest timeline

28 May: Protests begin in Gezi Park over plans to redevelop one of Istanbul's few green spaces

30-31 May: Police raids on protest camp culminate in mass unrest

3 June: Protesters establish camps with makeshift facilities from libraries to food centres

4-10 June: Protests widen into show of anti-government dissent in towns and cities across Turkey; clashes between police and demonstrators

11/12 June: Night of clashes see riot police disperse anti-government demonstrators in Taksim Square, which adjoins Gezi Park; camps in the park remain

13 June: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issues a "final warning" to protesters to leave Gezi Park

14 June: Government agrees to suspend Gezi Park redevelopment plans until a court rules on the issue, PM holds talks with members of a key protest group

15 June: Police move in, clearing protesters from Gezi Park

"The attitude across Turkey with the pretext of Taksim's Gezi Park is not sincere. It is nothing more than the minority's attempt to dominate the majority... We could not have allowed this and we will not allow it," he said.

Activists have called on protesters to return to Taksim Square but it is now cordoned off by police.

There have been sporadic clashes in surrounding areas, with police firing tear gas and water cannon.

Istanbul's governor, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, said the public would not be allowed into the square, adding that it would be "unsafe" for protesters to try to gather.

One protester, Mey Elbi, said the demonstrators would not give up.

She told AFP: "We're angry, this is not over. The world has seen that together, we can stand up to Tayyip."

Unrest spread to other parts of Istanbul.

Protesters ripped up paving stones near the Galata bridge and police fired water cannon in the upmarket Nisantasi district.

As night fell, barricades were being erected in a number of city neighbourhoods as youths faced off against police.

Some 1,000 riot police officers earlier arrived at Ataturk Airport from regions as far away as Diyarbakir and Sirnak, local media reported, to try to curb the Istanbul unrest.

Riot police could be seen leaving the city's airport and getting on to coaches bound for the city.

Riot police pass Taksim Square in Istanbul, 16 June Riot police in Istanbul have been receiving reinforcements from the Turkish provinces.
Water cannon spray hits a protester in Ankara, 16 June Police in the capital, Ankara, used water cannon on protesters on Sunday.
PM supporters in Istanbul, 16 June In Istanbul, the prime minister's supporters arrived by boat for a large rally
Police form a cordon in Taksim Square, Istanbul, 16 June Police formed a cordon around Taksim Square on Sunday.
Bulldozers work in Taksim Square, Istanbul, 16 June Bulldozers were at work, clearing away the barricades erected by protesters.
Protest in Istanbul, 16 June But sporadic clashes continued in Istanbul throughout the day.

At least 350 police on duty at the airport were also deployed to the city centre in case of possible clashes, Turkey's Dogan news agency reports.

Police also fired tear gas and water cannon to clear demonstrators in Ankara's Kizilay Square on Sunday afternoon.

At least four people were injured.

Map of protest locations in Turkey and Istanbul

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