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Despite apology protests enter sixth day in Turkey

Police have used tear gas and water cannon on demonstrators who have ignored warnings to disperse in several major cities including Istanbul and Ankara.

A protester sits in front of a barricade during a protest near Taksim square in Istanbul. Pic: Kostas Tsironis/AP/Press Association Images

FRESH CLASHES HAVE erupted in Turkey this morning as protesters defied a government plea to end days of unrest, the biggest challenge yet to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decade-long rule.

Police used tear gas and water cannon on demonstrators who ignored warnings to disperse in several major cities including Istanbul and Ankara.

The new trouble flared after a second major trade union confederation announced it would join protests against the government, calling a strike for Wednesday.

Thousands gathered in Istanbul’s main Taksim Square for a sixth day early Wednesday, yelling defiance at Erdogan, who has dismissed the protesters as “extremists” and “vandals”.

“The vandals are here! Where is Tayyip?” yelled the crowd.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc sought yesterday to defuse tensions by apologising for the tough police handling of the initial demonstrations.

But that did not appease outraged demonstrators who have been on the streets since Friday to protest at the policies of Erdogan, seen as increasingly authoritarian figure in Turkey.

The nationwide turmoil first erupted on Friday after police tear-gassed demonstrators at a peaceful rally against plans to build on a park in Istanbul, one of the world’s most visited cities.

On Tuesday, Arinc said sorry to those who had been caught up in the initial violence but called on “responsible citizens” to stop the protests. He was speaking in the absence of Erdogan, who began a trip to north Africa this week despite the problems at home.

Two people have been killed in the clashes, officials and medics say, and rights groups say thousands have been injured. The government puts the figure at around 300.

The atmosphere in Taksim late Tuesday was initially festive, with Turkish pipe music and singing blaring over speakers and fans from rival football teams linking arms, before police fired tear gas and water cannon.

In the western city of Izmir, police detained at least 25 people for tweeting “misleading and libellous information”, the Anatolia news agency reported, after Erdogan accused the microblogging site of spreading “lies”.

Protesters, many of them young Turks, rely heavily on social media to organise demonstrations and warn of trouble spots, and have complained bitterly about a lack of coverage of their action in the mainstream media.

The Turkish Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions (KESK), which represents 240,000 employees, lent its weight to the protests when it launched a two-day strike yesterday while an even bigger union grouping known as DISK and which claims 420,000 members, said it would join the strike and demonstrations today.

Yesterday: Deputy PM apologises for violence against protesters

Yesterday: Two dead in government crackdown as Turkish union calls two-day strike

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