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Tense Calm In Istanbul After Night Of Clashes

  • RFE/RL

A tense calm is reported in Istanbul following a night of clashes between riot police and antigovernment protesters.

On the night of June 11-12, police fired volleys of tear gas, water cannon, and rubber bullets in a bid to drive demonstrators out of Taksim Square.

Protesters fought back by throwing rocks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks.

Police were occupying the square on June 12 while protesters took refuge in the adjacent Gezi Park.

It is described as the worst night of violence since antigovernment protests erupted on May 31.

Reports spoke of an unclear number of injured protesters.

Late on July 11, Istanbul's Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu declared that riot police would continue operations night and day to clear out protesters.

"Until security is totally established in the [area], I am asking people not to go to Taksim Square," he said. "Until the area is totally cleared from the marginal groups and reopened to public, we will continue to take our precautions day and night and I want everyone to help our police while we take these measures."

Earlier, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he had "no more tolerance" for the mass demonstrations against his Islamist-rooted government.

Erdogan also reiterated his belief that the unrest was part of a conspiracy against his government.

Renewed protests were also reported on July 11 in the capital, Ankara, where police fired water cannon and tear gas to disperse several hundred demonstrators.

Events in Istanbul escalated early on July 11 after hundreds of police stormed Taksim Square, the epicenter of the nationwide protest movement.

The police operation seemed to catch protesters by surprise. But the demonstrators regrouped by the evening to again confront police lines.

The turmoil marks the most serious challenge to Erdogan's government in his 10 years in power.

The protests began following a violent police crackdown against activists opposed to new construction in Gezi Park, located next to Taksim Square.

But the protests soon expanded into a broader campaign against what opponents call Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian style and his alleged attempts to impose Islamic conservative values in constitutionally secular Turkey.

Erdogan has rejected the charges, instead describing many of the protesters as hooligans and enemies of democracy.

At least four people have been reported killed and some 5,000 treated for injuries or the effects of tear gas over the past 13 days.

On July 11, Turkey’s NATO ally, the United States, released a new statement on the crisis.

The White House described Turkey as a "close friend" and said the Obama administration was watching the events in Turkey "with concern."

It called on Turkish authorities to uphold freedom of expression, assembly, and association, as well as a free and independent media.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP