Turkish unions call for strike over protest violence

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Two of Turkey's main trade union federations, KESK and DISK, will go on strike Monday in protest at a police crackdown on anti-government demonstrators in Istanbul overnight, a spokesman for KESK told AFP.

“We are going on strike tomorrow across the country, with DISK and other vocational organizations,” Baki Cinar said. “Our demand is for police violence to end immediately,” AFP reported.

Tens of thousands of Turkish government supporters gathered in Istanbul on Sunday, as Turkish riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at the defiant demonstrators.

According to AP, authorities evicted activists from the Istanbul park, maintaining their hard line against attempts to rekindle protests that have shaken the country.

Police in uniform and plainclothes sealed off Istanbul's central Taksim Square and adjacent Gezi Park, where crews worked through the night to clear away all traces of a sit-in that started more than two weeks ago and became the focus of the strongest challenge to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his 10 years in office, AP said.

Istanbul’s governor said on Sunday a planned gathering by an anti-government protest group in the city’s central Taksim Square would not be allowed to go ahead after a night of unrest, Reuters reported.

“There is a call for gathering in Taksim at 1600 (1300GMT),” Governor Huseyin Avnni Mutlu told reporters.

“Any call for Taksim will not contribute to peace and security. After the current environment becomes stable, they can continue exercising their democratic rights. Under current circumstances we will not allow any gathering.”

Riot police on Saturday were attempting to reclaim Istanbul’s Gezi Park from demonstrators occupying what had become the symbolic heart of nationwide protests.

Earlier, Erdogan had issued an ultimatum to the protesters telling them to quit the park, adding that pro-government protesters would rally in Istanbul on Sunday.

“We have an Istanbul rally tomorrow (Sunday),” the premier told tens of thousands of supporters at an election rally for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara.

“Let me put it clearly: empty Taksim. If it is not evacuated, this country’s security forces know how to evacuate there,” he told cheering loyalists.

“Nobody can intimidate us,” he added. “We don’t take orders or instructions from anybody except from God.”

Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said 29 people had been injured in Saturday’s unrest, none seriously.

Shortly before dismantling the park, police armed with riot shields and wearing gas masks also fired salvos of tear gas and water to disperse hundreds of demonstrators from Taksim Square, which borders Gezi Park.

While many Gezi Park demonstrators sought refuge in nearby five-star hotels, pockets of protesters continued to battle with police into the night.

Thousands also took to the streets in the capital Ankara and the western city of Izmir Saturday, but there were no reports of clashes.

Turkey’s recent trouble first began when a peaceful sit-in to save Gezi Park’s 600 trees from being razed in a redevelopment plan prompted a brutal police response on May 31.

(With AFP, AP and Reuters)

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