Earlier this week, Erdogan ordered Taksim Square to be cleared of protesters. Police moved past improvised barricades on Tuesday, firing tear gas and rubber bullets and using water cannons to fend off small groups of demonstrators throwing stones, bottles and firebombs. Tear gas was also fired through the trees into the park, although the protesters were not removed.
Taksim Square itself returned to normal right after the end of the police operation early Wednesday. Traffic returned, the protest banners and flags were taken down, and cafes set up their chairs and tables outside again. At night, demonstrators still spill out from the park down the steps, while riot police kept watch from the edges.
Kahraman, the member of the Taksim Solidarity group who met with Erdogan in last-ditch talks that lasted until the pre-dawn hours Friday, said earlier that the protesters had agreed to continue their sit-in at Gezi Park, insisting that four key demands laid out by protesters in the talks had not been met.
The group has demanded that the park be left intact, anyone responsible for excessive police force resign or be fired, all activists detained in the protests be released, and the police use of tear gas and other non-lethal weapons be banned.
According to the government’s redevelopment plan for Taksim Square that caused the sit-in, the park would be replaced with a replica Ottoman-era barracks. Under initial plans, the construction would have housed a shopping mall, though that has since been amended to the possibility of an opera house, a theater and a museum with cafes.
Earlier Saturday, President Abdullah Gul wrote on Twitter that “everyone should now return home,” insisting that “the channels for discussion and dialogue” have opened — an apparent reference to the talks between Erdogan and a small group of delegates from the protest.
Keaten reported from Ankara, Turkey. Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.