Turkey unrest: Gezi Park reopens after police fire teargas during overnight clashes with protesters
Preparations made for Ramadan fast-breaking dinner in park
Tuesday 09 July 2013
An Istanbul park at the centre of protests against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government reopened after a night of clashes between police and protesters, but the mood among the small groups of visitors was calm.
Police fired teargas and water cannons at protesters last night as they tried to prevent them gathering in Gezi Park, which had been sealed off by police for three weeks after police expelled the residents of a protest camp there.
A group of young men and women sat on Tuesday under a hand-painted banner in the park saying "Welcome to the Taksim martyrs' park, 1977-2013", referring to more than 30 people who died in clashes at a May Day protest in Taksim Square in 1977.
Another group placed marble tiles on the grass bearing the names of four people who died during Gezi-related clashes last month and the name of a Kurdish youth shot dead in a protest against military outposts in southeast Turkey.
There was only a limited police presence at the edges of the park.
At dusk on Tuesday the park will host the first of daily fast-breaking 'iftar' dinners during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, a statement by the local municipality said.
"We are continuing the 20-year-old tradition of Gezi Park iftar dinners," local mayor Ahmet Misbah Demircan said.
"All the people of Istanbul are invited."
The Prime Minister has faced mass protests that have spread across the country over six weeks. The protests gained momentum after police used tear gas against a peaceful sit-in in Istanbul’s Gezi Park on 31 May, objecting to the demolition of the park for a commercial development.
The protests grew into wider demonstrations against Mr Erdogan's perceived attempts to impose a religious and conservative lifestyle in a country which has secular laws. But the prime minister, a devout Muslim, says he is committed to Turkey's secular laws and denies charges of autocracy.
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