Protesters Back In Taksim Square After Being Driven Out
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block.
In Istanbul, crowds of protesters are once again gathering at Taksim Square, after being driven out last night by riot police.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING PROTESTERS)
BLOCK: Everywhere is Taksim, they chanted today, everywhere is resistance.
Protesters who have occupied the park next to the square for over two weeks are still there, surrounded by police. But Turkey's prime minister is predicting the demonstration will be over in 24 hours.
NPR's Peter Kenyon joins us now from Istanbul. And, Peter, how do you interpret that declaration from Prime Minister Erdogan that this is all going to be over by tomorrow?
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: He does sound very confident. He had a number of meetings today. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan came out of one this afternoon and says he gave specific orders to his interior minister that, quote, "This will all be over in 24 hours." Now, that comes after last night's aggressive sweep out of the Taksim Square by force, although they left the demonstrators sitting inside Gezi Park, the small space that's slated for development that is at issue here.
Erdogan did not explicitly say there was going to be a crackdown soon on the park, but that's certainly how protesters are taking it there.
BLOCK: Well, Mr. Erdogan made those remarks just before he went into a meeting, one of the meetings you mentioned, with a group of activists described as mediators in this dispute. Did anything come out of that meeting?
KENYON: Well, no major announcement. There was a ruling party official who gave a briefing and said they discussed the possibility of having a referendum of this Gezi Park development. The idea is to rebuild an Ottoman-era barracks there. But he also reiterated that the protesters must leave. Some people on the activist side didn't even attend the meeting, 'cause they didn't feel it was going to be very productive. And most activists, I think, on that side of it would say their low expectations for this meeting were met.
One activist told us, if Erdogan wants this over soon he should meet our demands. So we are not seeing much compromise on either side, frankly.
BLOCK: The government has focusing a lot of its anger against some of the protesters in Taksim Square, who are throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at police. But the majority of demonstrators appear to be peaceful. What is the dynamic among the different types of protesters?
KENYON: Well, we hear a lot from protesters that we are not making it clear - they believe at least - that a lot of these young men throwing Molotov cocktails in front of TV cameras, are deliberately trying to sabotage what they want to be a peaceful protest. Now, I have to say, the evidence they've shown to back that up, some of the men have walkie-talkies, some have shoes that look like the policemen shoes - that is hardly conclusive.
But we can say that the protesters in Taksim are trying very hard to keep things peaceful. And we also know officials have said that they believe provocateurs have infiltrated Gezi Park, which is one other reason why activists think the police may soon be moving in there.
BLOCK: When you talk to the protesters, Peter, how fearful are they of what could be a very bloody outcome to this protest?
KENYON: There's a mix of fear and defiance. One protester we talked to said, I'm going to fight to the end, they're going to have to drag me out. But also, people, very nervous, you can just feel the energy there in Taksim that people are talking a little more quickly, they're laughing a little more loudly. There's nerves on all sides, I'd say.
BLOCK: OK, NPR's Peter Kenyon covering the ongoing protests in Istanbul. Peter, thank you.
KENYON: You're welcome, Melissa.