ISTANBUL — Turkey was relatively calm Sunday after two days of nationwide anti-government protests. Police in Ankara used tear gas to break up a march, but hundreds of activists celebrated in Istanbul’s Taksim Square after police withdrew.
The unrest - the worst during the decade-long rule of the Islamic rooted AK Party - started in Istanbul with a protest against a shopping mall.
Thousands of protesters celebrated long in the night in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. The square had been ground zero in two days of running battles between security forces and protesters that engulfed much of the city center. But following the intervention of the Turkish president, police withdrew. Among many demonstrators there is a sense of empowerment.
"This is the first ever time that all the nation came together even the football teams, other nationalities, other religions, all one group and that gives me goose bumps," says a protester.
But clashes with the security forces continued in other parts of Istanbul into late Saturday. Some of the worst were around the residence of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The unrest started as a protest against a shopping mall in one of Istanbul’s last remaining parks, but turned into a demonstration against the prime minister after hard-line tactics by the police. The demonstrators accused Erodgan of acting in an increasingly authoritarian way.
According to the interior minister, 90 protests occurred in 48 Turkish cites. More than 1,000 people have been detained and many more were injured, some seriously. The government has faced widespread international condemnation over heavy-handed actions by the security forces.
Interior Minister Muammer Guler said an investigation into the police has started, and warned there could be prosecutions.
Many Turkish newspapers Sunday declared victory for the demonstrators. With rain falling in Istanbul in early in the day, the protesters largely dissipated. A major cleanup is now going on, and observers say it remains unclear where the protests will go from here.