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World/National News

June 16, 2013

Police end Istanbul park protest

(Continued)

Erdogan, who was elected with 50 percent of the vote for his third term in 2011, vehemently rejects the accusations by protesters and points to his strong support base.

As they entered the park on Saturday police shouted to the protesters: “This is an illegal act, this is our last warning to you — Evacuate.”

Shortly before the police launched their operation, Erdogan had threatened protesters in a boisterous speech in Sincan, a suburb of the capital Ankara, that is a stronghold of his Justice and Development Party.

“I say this very clearly: either Taksim Square is cleared, or if it isn’t cleared then the security forces of this country will know how to clear it,” Erdogan said.

A second pro-government rally is planned for Sunday in Istanbul, though Erdogan has previously said that the rallies were not designed as “an alternative” to the demonstrations at Gezi Park, but part of early campaigning for local elections next March.

On Saturday, Erdogan lashed out at what he called the “plot” behind the biggest street protests in his 10-year tenure.

“You are here, and you are spoiling the treacherous plot, the treacherous attack!” he said, insisting unspecified groups both inside and outside Turkey had conspired to mount the protests centered on Istanbul — and that he had the documents to prove it.

The crowd chanted in response: “Stand straight, don’t bow, the people are with you!”

In his speech, he focused on some protesters who have clashed with police — at time by throwing stones and firebombs.

“There is no breaking and burning here, we are people of love,” Erdogan said. “If people want to see the real Turkey, they should come here to Sincan,”

Erdogan already has offered to defer to a court ruling on the legality of the government’s contested park redevelopment plan, and floated the possibility of a referendum on it. But concessions over the park seemed not to be enough.

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