Erdogan's supporters rally, dismissing Turkish protests as a 'big game' (+video)
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed hundreds of thousands of his cheering supporters in Istanbul saying, 'My patience has run out' with anti-government protests.
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Erdogan blamed a host of “provocateurs” for the violence – from protesters using social media and global news organizations like the BBC and CNN, to college deans and English teachers – and vowed that “we will find them one by one.”Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Turkey's discontent
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The Turkish leader also drew what he claimed to be a conspiracy between protester “terrorist organizations” and two other events – a double car bombing in May near the Syrian border which killed 52, blamed on a Turk who claimed he was working for Syrian intelligence; and an attack on Erdogan's office in March at the AKP headquarters in Ankara, claimed by a radical leftist group.
Despite the divisive rhetoric, the atmosphere at the rally was relaxed, compared to the scenes just a few miles away at the center of town, where police fought protesters who had marched toward Taksim Square along every access road. Groups of police chased protesters down narrow alleys and broad avenues, firing tear gas and making arrests.
Banging of pots
As Erdogan began speaking, protesters began banging pots and pans in the streets and from balconies in a symbolic effort to drown him out. Similar noise-making – dismissed by Erdogan as a weak tactic – has been heard throughout central Istanbul at 9 pm every night for two weeks.
Protesters have demanded that Erdogan apologize for heavy-handed police action and excessive use of tear gas. They also called for resignations of key officials and security chiefs involved in the clampdown, and the preservation of the Gezi Park and its trees – one of the few green spaces in the center of the city – which had been slated for removal to make way for a development project.
“Any call [to gather] in Taksim will not contribute to peace and security,” Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said. “After the current environment becomes stable, they can continue exercising their democratic rights. Under current circumstances we will not allow any gathering.”
City buses were used to ferry AKP rally-goers to the venue for free. Party leaflets distributed throughout Istanbul billed the event with the words: "Let’s spoil the big game. Let’s write history!”
The protesters complain that Erdogan is running a “majoritarian democracy,” and does not consult minority social and political groups who feel ignored and excluded by AKP rule.
“He’s a man. I love his characteristics,” says Talha, a political science student at the rally who declined to give his last name. “I think the Taksim problem is fixed. There is a problem, but it is democratic. Protesting is okay, it is only when they throw stones that it is a problem.”
“I am very proud of our president and prime minister,” says Busra Uzun, a female student wearing a hijab at the rally. She carried a sign that read: “Be smart, don’t fall for the big game.” She says Gezi Park protesters had been “duped.”
Erdogan was speaking to those supporters, with his defiant words. He made no apology for the events that have shaken Turkish markets and Turkey’s reputation. And he praised the police and their "restrained" efforts, and said that ordering the clearing Gezi Park was his “duty as prime minister, otherwise there would be no point in my being in office.”
* Follow Scott Peterson on Twitter at @peterson__scott
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