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Turkey counts cost of mass protests

Clean-up under way following demonstrations against the government, as fresh protests are expected.

Last Modified: 02 Jun 2013 11:09
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Turkey is assessing the damage of violent anti-government protests over the last two days, the worst to have swept the nation in recent times.

Taksim Square in Istanbul, the focus of the demonstrations, was calm on Sunday morning, but  protesters say their fight against the policies of the government of Tayyip Recep Erdogan is far from over.

Further protests are expected on Sunday afternoon.

Al Jazeera's correspondent Rawya Rageh said there were burned buses, cars and other debris around the square, and neighbourhood residents were aiding with the clean-up. Graffiti has been sprayed across many walls and vehicles.

She said riot police had pulled back from the square on Saturday after fierce battles with protesters.

The protests in Istanbul were mirrored in dozens of other cities, with many carrying on late into Saturday night and Sunday morning. In Ankara, the capital, smashed shop windows were evidence of the previous evening's violence. 


Muammer Guler, the interior minister, said police had detained 939 protesters in over 90 demonstrations across the country. Some have since been released. 

He said 53 civilians and 26 police were injured. One of the injured civilians was in intensive care unit at an Istanbul hospital.

Widening protest

The Istanbul protest began last Monday as a peaceful sit-in at Gezi Park across Taksim Square. The demonstrators had been preventing workers from razing some of the 600 trees in the park, the last patch of green in the commercial area, to make way for the restoration of Ottoman-era military barracks.

Residents fear that the barracks will be turned into a shopping centre.

The demonstration soon took a violent turn, with police shooting tear gas at the protesters. The protests then escalated into widespread anger against what critics say is the government's increasingly conservative and authoritarian agenda.

They cite the restrictions on alcohol and warnings against public displays of affection.

Erdogan admitted on Saturday there may have been some cases of "extreme" police action.

It is true that there have been some mistakes, extremism in police response."

However, he remained defiant, pledging to push forward with the plans to redevelop Taksim Square.

Erdogan said the redevelopment of Gezi Park was being used as an excuse for the unrest and warned the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which had been given permission to hold a rally in Istanbul, against stirring tensions.

Both the UK and US called on Turkey's government to exercise restraint.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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