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Police attack protesters outside Taksim Square

7 July 2013

Police have once again used tear gas and water cannons to break up thousands of protesters who were starting to gather at Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue ahead of a mass demonstration. The avenue is one of the main junctions intersecting with Taksim Square, which is adjacent to Gezi Park.

Protesters dispersed as security forces chased them in the side streets; tear gas attacks were intense. Ambulances were seen entering the area after the intervention. About 30 protesters were detained by the police, Turkish daily Radikal reported.

By-standers booed at riot police at Istiklal Avenue. Metro access to Taksim Square has also been interrupted.

Protesters were organising a “water fight” event in order to peacefully denounce the police’s repeated crackdowns using water cannons, which contain water mixed with the same chemical substances as the pepper spray, when security forces intervened.

Following the intervention at Istiklal Avenue, the Taksim Solidarity Platform gathered near Taksim Square to serve the notice of the Istanbul 1st Regional Court’s June 6 decision, which cancelled the controversial Taksim pedestrianisation project and the Artillery Barracks project set to replace Gezi Park.

The initiative argues that the Taksim Square pedestrianisation project and the Artillery Barracks project have lost their legal grounds. The park was barred to public since police evicted protesters three weeks ago.

Some protesters maintained that the police did not have the right to seal off the park after the court ruling. Gursel Tekin, the deputy head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also joined the protesters and negotiated with the police officers to prevent an intervention.

However, police again started firing water cannons just a few minutes after warning the protesters to disperse. Gursel was reportedly affected by the crackdown.

A few hours earlier, Istanbul’s Governor, Huseyin Mutlu had said that the demonstrations were not authorised and would entail a police intervention.

“The Constitution says that anyone can stage a demonstration without giving notification, but the legislation says that applying to the authorities for permission is mandatory. So nobody can say they exercise their constitutional rights. This is unlawful,” Mutlu told reporters today regarding the protest that was due to start at 7 p.m.

 “I can’t allow a demonstration that I haven’t permitted in advance, I can’t act unlawfully. So we won’t allow these gatherings. Our police will warn. We believe that  significant numbers will leave the place after these warnings,” Mutlu said hours after he announced via Twitter that Gezi Park will be open to public tomorrow.

Riot police also fired tear gas at a restaurant near the renowned Marmara hotel after people showed their disapproval of police’s actions with mere applauses, private broadcaster CNNTurk reported.

Meanwhile, an amateur video footage showing unidentified people with machetes indiscriminately attacking protesters and by-standers running from the effects of tear gas has emerged after today’s crackdown.

One of the assailants is seen kicking a woman on her back while holding a machete on his hand.

The footage was recorded in the Talimhane area where a dozen of touristic hotels are located.

Two people involved in the attacks with machetes were detained, Istanbul’s Governor Mutlu said via Twitter following the publication of the footage.

 “Our police will continue to do its duty with care against such attacks,” Mutlu wrote as security forces were criticised for not intervening heavy-handedly against the assailants.

“But there are always small groups that seek confrontation with the police,” he added.

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