But the mass protests against the moderately Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that have taken place over the past two days are different. For one, they are the biggest in years. On Friday evening, thousands of people streamed down Istiklal en route to Taksim Square, where the spark that ignited the ongoing unrest was first lit, before being beaten back by police units. The following day, as police abandoned the square, even more protesters arrived, their numbers in the tens if not hundreds of thousands. Protests and clashes have since broken out in a number of other cities across Turkey, including the capital, Ankara. As of Saturday night, 939 people had been arrested and 79 wounded in 90 demonstrations around the country, according to the Ministry of the Interior. Volunteer doctors around Taksim estimated that the number of injured exceeded 1,000.
It all began on May 27 in a small park right behind Taksim, where a number of activists converged to protest plans to turn the area — one of the few green spaces in the city center — into a replica of an Ottoman barracks and shopping arcade. Over the next few days, as construction workers began uprooting trees, police repeatedly raided the sit-in, dispersing the protesters with tear gas, batons and water cannons. Images of wounded young men and women immediately began making the rounds on TV and social media, sparking wave after wave of popular outrage, as well as condemnation from human-rights groups, which decried the excessive use of tear gas against unarmed protesters.
Things reached a boiling point on Friday morning after the police raided Gezi Park once again, burning the protesters’ tents, firing more tear gas and leaving dozens injured. By the end of the day, the streets that feed into Taksim were filled to the brink. The grievances of all groups opposed to the government seemed to have rolled into one. On Istiklal Avenue, Zeynep, a 21-year-old student who had taken part in the protests from Day One, complained about the closing of state theaters, police brutality and runaway development. “We don’t need any more shopping malls, we need trees!” she shouted, her words mixing with chants calling for Prime Minister Erdogan to step down. Nearby, a pair of teenage girls accused Erdogan of restricting free speech and steering Turkey, a secular but Muslim-majority country, toward Islamic rule.
Read more: http://world.time.com/2013/06/02/pro...#ixzz2VBg5eUIo