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07.06.2013 20:09 News >> Sit-In Protest At Gezi Park Continues Without Incident

Sit-In Protest At Gezi Park Continues Without Incident

Protesters at Gezi Park who sparked nationwide demonstrations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government continued to occupy the park on Friday, with the pious among them performing Friday prayers.

Protesters at Gezi Park who sparked nationwide demonstrations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government continued to occupy the park on Friday, with the pious among them performing Friday prayers.

There were reports that life was returning to normal at Gezi Park, with municipal teams cleaning up the park and the surrounding areas. Official records said that the total financial damages caused by the events amounted to about TL 70 million.

There was also a funeral prayer performed by a group calling themselves Anti-capitalist Muslims at Gezi Park in honor of Abdullah Cömert, a protester who lost his life after a tear gas canister hit him in the head in Hatay province.

Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman Bekir Bozdağ commented on the protests during a visit to Kocaeli Governor Ercan Topaca, noting that "everyone should read these incidents correctly." He said that all citizens have a right to demonstrate, express their opinion and criticize. "But when one crosses the line defined by the constitution and the law, this is not the right way to exercise this right." He accused the protesters of violence and of spreading false news stories, which he said was tantamount to overstepping the boundaries of democracy.

He also criticized The Economist for using a cover photo of Erdoğan in an Ottoman sultan's costume and accused the magazine of having tried to turn public opinion against the AK Party during the 2011 elections. "Tayyip Erdoğan is in the hearts of the nation and neither The Economist nor anyone else has the power to scrape that off."

Interior Affairs Minister Muammer Güler also offered a statement on Friday, stating the sphere of freedoms in Turkey had expanded in the past 10 years. He said that he supported people's rights to freedom of expression but added that behavior that limits the freedoms of others will not be allowed.

On June 7, the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD) made a press statement, calling on all sides to work together to reach a social consensus. It also criticized the "disproportionate use of police force and intervention without tolerance" in the protests.

The prime minister, who returned to Turkey on Thursday after a four-day trip to North Africa, also criticized the protesters, accusing them of being sore losers and not accepting the results of a vote. He also displayed his anger with many artists who supported the protests.

On Friday, director Sinan Çetin, known for his pro-government attitude, criticized the AK Party, saying he had voted for a different party and was appalled by the treatment of the protesters by the police. Comedian Ata Demirer also went to Gezi Park on Friday, the 11th day of the protests. "I put myself in the shoes of the demonstrators. It was depressing to sit in front of the TV. That is why I came here."

In Ankara, the police continued intervening in the riots on Thursday night. On Friday, they tore down tents put up by protesters at Kuğulu Park.

There were also unconfirmed reports of a quarrel between a gay rights group and another group at Gezi Park. A protester was punched in the face during the scuffle, one report suggested. There was also a brief fight between a group of protesters and another group carrying flags of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). There were also unconfirmed claims that protesters had attempted to loot the Kızılkayalar fast-food store at Taksim Square after the owner had used unflattering descriptions to refer to the protesters on his Twitter account.

There were also claims that some protesters escaping from tear gas earlier this week had entered a mosque without taking their shoes off. Beşiktaş Mufti Hızır Hilmi Yılmaz said they were keeping the gates of the affected mosque, the Bezmi Alem Valide Sultan Mosque in Dolmabahçe, closed to keep away protesters running from police intervention. The mufti also said that he expected everyone to respect the mosque's sacredness and taking one's shoes off is the most important sign of showing this respect. (Cihan / Today's Zaman)

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