Demonstrations aimed at preventing a demolition at Istanbul's city center continued on Thursday despite police intervening with armed vehicles and pepper gas in an effort to disperse protesters that have remained at the site day and night since Monday.
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) member Sirri Sureyya Onder stood against the demolition, forcing police officers to break a security cordon and remove bulldozers from the site temporarily after altercations with protesters early in the morning.
Onder praised the three day long protests and urged the demonstrators to remain calm.
"We'll wait here, calm and resolved; more people are coming along," he said. "The bulldozers here are engaged in an illegal demolition."
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced Wednesday his government's intention to rebuild a replica of a historic artillery barracks at its original location at Gezi Park in famous leisure and tourism district Taksim Square. The barracks dates back to 1806 but was demolished in 1940 after receiving heavy damage through several wars.
The building is planned to house a shopping mall and residences as part of a project to pedestrianize Taksim.
A group of 50 started a sit-in at the park on Monday, protesting as park walls were torn down and trees were cut.
The partially demolished park area saw demonstrators increase in number the next day, setting up tents, planting seedlings and pledging to stand guard so as to prevent the officials from proceeding with the demolition.
Preserving the legacy
Protesters claim demolishing a public garden goes against the idea of pedestrianization.
"Now that Taksim is being pedestrianized, wouldn't it be better to build more parks and plant more trees for that?" said actor Devrim Evin, who visited the site as a show of support for the protesters.
Evin said great Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror took utmost care not to cause any damage to historic Orthodox basilica Hagia Sofia when he entered Istanbul.
"Such were our ancestors; they preserved things, did not destroy or tear down," he said.
"You, on the other hand, might go so far as to pour concrete into the Bosphorus and have us start walking across."
"Istanbulites reclaim their city"
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu paid a short visit to the site and said his party fully supports the demonstrations.
"Istanbul's history and culture must remain untarnished. Taksim Gezi Park must be preserved. Those who want to build a shopping mall here are betraying Istanbul," Kilicdaroglu said.
"And now Istanbulites reclaim their city. It is our job to support them and rally along."
Prime Minister Erdogan reacted to the protests on Wednesday, saying the construction project would proceed regardless of efforts to prevent it.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.