Turkish Protesters Defy Erdogan's Rallies Crush Ultimatum
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held overnight talks with members of a key protest group.
The talks took place in the capital Ankara, just hours after Erdogan issued a "final warning" to demonstrators and a 24-hour deadline to crush the protests.
This was the second such meeting. The first one was in Istanbul, but posts on the Occupy Gezi page on Facebook claimed that some of the people at the meeting with the Turkish PM and ministers had nothing to do with the Taksim protests.
Participants in the Ankara talks, from the Taksim Solidarity group, have described the outcome as "positive," the BBC reports Friday morning. The idea of a referendum on the future of Gezi Park has been discussed once again.
Another meeting would be called in Istanbul's Taksim Square Friday "to allow citizens to make up their own mind".
The Taksim Solidarity is opposed to the redevelopment of Gezi Park, the issue that sparked the unrest.
Activists continue to declare they will not leave until the government abandons plans to redevelop the park.
Speaking after Thursday night's meeting, government spokesman Huseyin Celik said a public vote would be held on the future of Gezi Park.
"The park should not be a place where people live for 24 hours. The environmentalists should leave. We will ask everyone in Istanbul what they think. Anyone who does not want a vote cannot speak of democracy," he said.
The spokesman added that allegations of "excessive use of force" by the police would be investigated.
Meanwhile, thousands gathered at Taksim square near the park for yet another night under the stars in defiance of Erdogan's ultimatum.
Their barricades were attacked once again by police armored vehicles.
In a nearby area, riot police have used teargas and water cannon against the demonstrators.
A young musician won the hearts of the crowd by taking his piano on Taksim square and staging an improvised concert that lasted for hours. His performance of "Beatles" songs was met with thundering applause.
People kept piling food and non-alcoholic beverages on the piano in sign of gratitude.
Turkey has seen tireless civil unrest sparked by a police crackdown on a local protest over construction plans for Gezi Park on Taksim square.
Five people, including a police officer, are reported to have died since the protests began, with thousands more hurt and hundreds arrested. There are fears that the dead toll might be much higher than the official reports.
The government says more than 500 police officers are among the injured. There are reports that 6 policemen have committed suicide and over 1 000 have resigned.
Three police officers in Izmir have been fired over using excessive force against a group of young people who had just been standing on the street, talking to each other.
Turkish NTV reports that the policemen have been fired and are investigated after media showed footage of the three forcefully searching the youth and pulling the hair of a girl from the group.
The protests began on May 28 over plans to redevelop Gezi Park.
It is the only remaining park in Taksim district, and it was supposed to make way for the rebuilding of an Ottoman era military barracks to house a large shopping center.
The rallies spread quickly, engulfing a number of major cities, and eventually turned into demonstrations against the authoritarian and Islamic-leaning policy of the Turkish government and of Erdogan.
It was reported meanwhile that Abdullah Gul, the President of Turkey, has signed the controversial law imposing serious restrictions on alcohol sales in the country.
The law is seen as one of the sparks of the protests. In May, the Turkish Parliament approved the ban on selling alcohol, between 10 pm and 6 am.
Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu has scorned leading international media for what he saw as biased reports from the protests aiming at tarnishing his country's image.
Davutoglu points out that in the last decade mass protest rallies, similar to those on Taksim, have been staged across Europe and the US, but global media reported on them calmly seeing them as normal part of the democratic process.
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