Turkish police retreated from a main Istanbul square today, removing barricades and allowing in thousands of demonstrators to calm tensions after a crackdown on furious anti-government protests turned the city center into a battlefield. A human rights group said hundreds of people were injured in scuffles with police that lasted through the night. As police retreated, some protesters hurled objects at officers and police vehicles, prompting police to fire several rounds of tear gas, the private Dogan news agency reported. The state-run Anadolu Agency said protesters threw fireworks at police.
The two days of national protest, which began over a violent police raid of an anti-development sit-in in Taksim square, have revealed the depths of anger against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Many Turks view him as increasingly authoritarian and dismissive of opposing views. The protest was also seen as a demonstration of the anger building toward Turkish police, who have been accused of using inordinate force to quash demonstrations and of using tear gas excessively. But even as he appeared to relent to demonstrators by pulling back police, Erdogan remained defiant, insisting that the demonstrations were illegitimate. He challenged protesters that he could easily summon a million people for a pro-government rally.