Turkey protesters ponder reply to park delay

Demonstrators hold talks on how to respond to PM's decision to delay redevelopment of Gezi Park amid arrests in Ankara.

    Turkish protesters have held talks to discuss their next move after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to suspend redevelopment of a park in Istanbul in a bid to end two weeks of deadly anti-government unrest.

    Al Jazeera's correspondents in Istanbul said Taksim Solidarity, seen as most representative of the the protesters, would announce its final decision at 1200 GMT.

    But Erdogan's appeal for protesters to evacuate Gezi Park looked set to be ignored as demonstrators rolled out their sleeping bags on Friday evening as talks to end the unrest continued.

    Meanwhile, police detained dozens of protesters in Ankara on Saturday as hundreds of protesters flocked to the streets of the Turkish capital to demonstrate against Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

    Police used water cannons and smoke grenades to disperse the protest.

    Ergogan agreed on Friday to halt the Istanbul park project until a court rules on its legality, marking the first easing of tensions in the standoff.

    If passed by the court, the project would then be put to a referendum.

    The protest over the park exposed simmering tensions within the country between secularists and Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government.

    The protests have left three people dead and 5,000 injured, presenting the AKP with its biggest challenge in its decade-long rule, seen by many as increasingly authoritarian.

    "Young people, you have remained there long enough and delivered your message.... Why are you staying?" Erdogan said in a speech broadcast live on television. "I hope it will be over by tonight."

    A peaceful sit-in to save Gezi Park's 600 trees from being razed prompted a brutal police response on May 31, spiralling into nationwide demonstrations against Erdogan and the AKP.

    The crackdown has prompted Western nations to criticise the government for its handling of the crisis and blamed police for their brutality.

    Police have used tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets against demonstrators who have hurled back fireworks and Molotov cocktails.

    'Last warning'

    Erdogan has taken a combative stance against the demonstrators, dismissing them as "looters" and "extremists".

    But after they defied his "last warning" to clear out of the park on Thursday, he held emergency talks with Taksim Solidarity.

    In what was hailed as a win by the representatives, the meeting led to Erdogan's first major concession since the conflict began.

    Erdogan said that if the court rules the Gezi Park redevelopment is legal, he wants to hold a popular vote on plans to build a replica of Ottoman-era military barracks on the site.

    Taksim Solidarity responded more coolly to the referendum idea but vowed to take the premier's proposals to Gezi Park, where protesters held discussion forums into the night to come up with a joint response.

    Early indications suggested that many of the campers, most of whom are young and middle-class, were determined to stay in the park despite the government's olive branch, claiming that the protest had morphed into something bigger.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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