Spontaneous protests broke out worldwide Saturday in support of a series of anti-government demonstrations in Turkey, originally ignited by a call to preserve a recreational area in Istanbul which is scheduled to be demolished in order to construct a shopping mall in its place.
Hundreds of protesters in Vancouver, Amsterdam, London, and Berlin, as well as many other cities across the globe, gathered to express outrage at the heavy-handed tactics which Turkish police used to break up a peaceful sit-in at Istanbul’s main Taksim square on Friday.
According to witnesses in Istanbul, Turkish police forces attacked protesters violently with tear gas and water cannons, directly targeting their faces and bodies. The Associated Press reported that human rights groups claim hundreds of people were injured in the scuffles with police that lasted through the night.
The demonstration in Istanbul quickly turned into a wider protest against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is seen as becoming increasingly authoritarian, and spread rapidly to other Turkish cities.
“Attention! Turkish democracy needs you!” read a statement which was delivered in 12 languages at a number of different rallies throughout Europe.
“Dozens of protesters are hospitalized and access to the park is blocked without any legal basis,” the statement continued.
The statement warned that “Turkish media, directly controlled by the government… refuses to cover the incidents,” and called to further share information in order to raise awareness of the “police state” created by Erdogan.
On Friday, the “#OccupyGezi” hashtag trended on Twitter, reaching more than 160,000 mentions as Turkish activists began tweeting in English in order to spread awareness of the developments in the country.
On Saturday, Erdogan called on demonstrators to end the anti-government protests and insisted that police would continue to break down the demonstrations.
“Police were present in Taksim yesterday,” Erdogan said. “They will be present today and they will be present tomorrow, too. Taksim cannot be a place where extremist groups run wild.”
He said the government was determined to revamp Taksim and rebuild an old army barracks but said no firm decision was made on building a shopping mall.