Turkish labor union strikes protest police crackdown


A protestor flashes a victory sign as he takes part in a demonstration in support of protests in Istanbul and against the Turkish Prime Minister and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), in Ankara, on June 1, 2013. Turkish police on June 1 began pulling out of Istanbul's iconic Taksim Square, after a second day of violent clashes between protesters and police over a controversial development project.



Turkish labor unions urged their 800,000 members to walk out in a one-day nationwide strike after police forcibly evicted protesters from Istanbul's Gezi park and detained almost 500 people in an overnight crackdown.

The Confederation of Public Workers' Unions (KESK), the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DISK), and other groups announced the work stoppage Monday, calling for an end to "police violence."

“We had already taken a decision to go on strike if there was an intervention on the park. So tomorrow we will declare a strike for Monday,” said KESK spokesman Mustafa Turgut.

The strike follows clashes over the weekend between police and protesters in Istanbul and the capital Ankara. On Sunday night, riot police fired tear gas and youths threw rocks near Taksim Square, the epicenter of the mass anti-government protests that began about two weeks ago.

The government issued a response to the strike, with the interior minister saying the protest against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government and his AK Party was "illegal."

"I am calling on public workers and laborers to not participate in unlawful demonstrations — otherwise they will bear the legal consequences," Muammer Guler said. "Our police will be on duty as usual."

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Speaking to hundreds of thousands of supporters on Sunday, Erdogan said that protesters had been manipulated by "terrorists." The prime minister also said the protests were "nothing more than the minority's attempt to dominate the majority... We could not have allowed this and we will not allow it."

Turkish bar association lawyers said about 500 people were detained after Sunday night's crackdown, with the BBC reporting that five doctors and three nurses who treated protesters were missing.

"Following a night of shocking police violence, the authorities are now denying due process to those they have detained," said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International's researcher on Turkey. "The police must release them immediately or disclose their location and allow access to family members and lawyers."

The mass protests and clashes with police have killed at least four people and injured about 5,000, according to the Turkish Medical Association. In a public statement the association also condemned the government's excessive use of tear gas. 

The protests began on May 28, with a small number of people demonstrating against the proposed construction of a replica Ottoman-era barracks in Gezi Park. However, a mass revolt began against what protesters and critics say is a Turkish government that has become increasingly authoritarian.

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