Police attacked protesters with water cannons and tear gas today as the fourth day of protests in central Istanbul, Turkey, turned violent.
The violence was condemned by human rights groups. “The use of violence by police on this scale appears designed to deny the right to peaceful protest altogether and to discourage others from taking part” John Dalhuisen, Director of Europe and Central Asia Programme at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
Protesters had been camped out since Monday according to the New York Times, angry about plans to remove a tree-filled park in the city’s central Taksim Square and replace it with a replica Ottoman-era army barracks that would be home to a shopping mall.
However the protests are beginning to turn into something broader, as protesters begin to voice other grievances against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Erdogan has been in power since 2002, and secular critics believe his government is becoming more authoritarian. Just last week the Turkish government restricted the sale of alcohol, limiting it to between 6am and 10pm, the BBC reports.
Protesters are also worried about Turkey’s support of Syrian rebels, and Erdogan’s plans to strengthened the office of the president, a position he hopes to soon occupy.
The protests are already being likened to New York City’s Occupy Wall Street protests, with the hashtag #OccupyGezi, and they appear to be gaining steam — Turkey’s main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has pledged his full support, and a number of business owners have refused to do business in the mall, the Guardian reports.
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