Turkey: Istanbul clashes escalate as police fire teargas at protesters

Clashes in Istanbul continued for the fourth day in a row on Friday March 31. What started off as a peaceful conservation protests at Taksim Gezi Park, has now developed into violent clashes between police and protesters. The original protest was to stop demolition of the park, and the building of a shopping centre that would take its place.
Police stormed a camp site of protesters early on Thursday morning using teargas. Demolition vehicles restarted their work, though one demonstrator who lay in front of a vehicle was removed by force. The demolition of the park was brought to a halt once again at around 08:00 local time (05:00 GMT) when Peace and Democracy Party Istanbul deputy Sirri Sureyya Onder stood in front of the bulldozers. Turkish main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu made a support visit late on Wednesday night to the several hundreds of demonstrators. He promised that the Republican People's Party (CHP) deputies would stand firm with the protesters against any attempt to continue the demolition.
What began as a call for conservation may have spiralled into public outcry over what protesters see as the increasing authoritarianism of the government. Protests and clashes have spread to the capital Ankara, where some 500 people crammed into a small park close to embassy buildings, calling on the government to resign. One protester is reported to have said that they hope these events will be the beginning of the 'Turkish spring', as the recent unrest reflects a growing opposition and disquiet at the Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A Turkish journalist commented that Islam is making a come-back in Turkey despite continuing love for the rationalist and secularist Ataturk and claiming Erdogan and other 'pro-Islamism leaders' of the ruling Development Party (AKP) have 'inaugurated an era of deep political transformation'.