ISTANBUL — Turkish riot police on Monday fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon to block demonstrators from entering a small Istanbul park, the birthplace of deadly unrest that engulfed the country last month.
Police moved after Turkish authorities reopened Gezi Park to public use earlier in the day.
“Four people died for this park. This park will reopen!” a young demonstrator shouted, while others were trying to convince the police that their action was unfair and they should stop emptying the park.
But later in the day after police sealed off access to the central Taksim Square and the adjacent park, the cat-and-mouse game with protesters ensued in the nearby thoroughfares.
At least one demonstrator was seriously wounded, with his left eye abundantly bleeding, an AFP journalist reported.
“You should be ashamed of yourself. Go on, shoot me too!” one of the protesters yelled at a police officer on top of an armoured vehicle.
Some angry shopkeepers at a fish market close to Taksim Square lashed out at police and anti-government demonstrators, accusing them of ruining their business.
Earlier Monday when Turkish authorities reopened the park they warned that no further protests would be tolerated.
“Gezi Park has been reopened to public but there are many calls for unauthorised protests aimed at turning the park into an occupation zone,” Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu wrote on Twitter.
A brutal police crackdown on May 31 against a peaceful sit-in to prevent 600 trees from being cut down in a park redevelopment scheme sparked June’s nationwide protests against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted government.
Protesters occupied the small park and put up tents to remain around the clock before being evicted by police on June 15.
Since then, the park has been closed. But in the face of public anger, authorities planted additional trees and a Turkish court annulled a government decision to redevelop the park, saying locals had not been sufficiently consulted about the project.
Residents feared the redevelopment plan would turn the area into a shopping district, while urban planners and ecologists said the proposals did not respect the environment.
Nearly three weeks of protests in Turkey have left four people dead and some 8,000 injured.