Turkey's peaceful protests continue despite Erdogan claiming "victory"

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People stand on the flashpoint Taksim square in Istanbul on 18 June 2013 during a wave of new alternative protests in Turkey. (Photo: AFP - Bulent Kilic)

Published Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Riot police on Wednesday clashed briefly with groups of anti-government protesters in two Turkish cities, as demonstrators in Istanbul switched to silent protests after a heavy police crackdown.

A day after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory over the mass protests that have defied his authority for nearly three weeks, several dozen protesters held a quiet vigil on Istanbul's Taksim Square, standing still and silent in the midday heat.

Police presence on the square was much smaller than in previous days, and the area was mostly overrun with tourists and commuters resuming their normal routines.

The so-called "standing man" protest, which began with a lone choreographer in Istanbul on Monday, also spread to the capital Ankara, the southern city of Adana and the western city of Izmir, with hundreds standing motionless in public spaces in a peaceful act of quiet defiance.

Reports of fresh clashes overnight came from Ankara and the central city of Eskisehir, where police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of protesters, according to local media.

A few pictures of the night [in Eskisehir]

The protests against Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted government have lost some of their intensity since police on Saturday stormed Istanbul's Gezi Park, the epicenter of the nationwide demos, evicting thousands of protesters and sparking a weekend of violence.

The park, located next to Taksim Square, remained sealed off by police on Wednesday.

Occupiers in Gezi Park

Erdogan on Tuesday told members of his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) that he had overcome the crisis, seen as the biggest challenge yet to his decade-long rule.

"Our democracy has been tested again and came out victoriously," he said.

The crisis began when a small campaign to save Gezi Park's 600 trees from being razed in a redevelopment project was met with a brutal response on May 31.

The violence sparked widespread anger and snowballed into mass demos against Erdogan, seen as increasingly authoritarian, before culminating in another crackdown on Gezi Park.

According to Turkish daily Milliyet, an estimated 130.000 rounds of tear gas were used by Turkish police forces during the Gezi Park protests.

Four people have been killed and more than 7,500 injured in the turmoil, according to the Turkish Medical Association.

Hundreds have also been arrested across the country in connection with the demos.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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