Turkish police have fired tear gas and water canons in clashes with activists and opposition groups. Protesters say they're fighting for human rights against an increasingly authoritarian government.
The police in Istanbul fired tear gas and water canons at protesters for a second day on Saturday to clear demonstrators from Taksim Square. Protesters gathered in the square days ago in opposition to plans to develop the area.
Istanbul hotels, including the Hilton and Marmara, located at the central Taksim Square opened their doors to protesters fleeing the violence. "The police tear gas right into the hotel lobby," a security officer at the Marmara Hotel told DW.
"We walked up to the police and they told us that we should turn around," one demonstrator told DW. "We did what we were told without protesting at all and when we turned around they threw two tear gas canisters at us."
An environmental protest
Demonstrations started at the beginning of the week as people gathered and setup a protest camp to keep grass and trees in Gezi Park from being destroyed to make way for a shopping mall. Environmental activists criticized that an increasing number of parks in Istanbul were being sacrificed for new buildings.
On Saturday, protests spread to other Turkish cities where demonstrators clashed with police and directed their anger towards Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Despite the demonstrations, Erdogan said construction plans at Gezi Park would continue. An Istanbul administrative court, however, issued an injunction to stop construction at the site.
World should look at what's happening
"We are so angry because our prime minister has permitted too much over the last few years," the demonstrator said. "This week was the straw that broke the camel's back."
She said she decided to take to the streets not only because of plans to cut down trees in Gezi Park but as a wider struggle for human rights.
"The world should look at what's happening in Turkey - at what Erdogan is doing to us," another demonstrator told DW, calling the authorities' response unacceptable in a democratic country.
Protesters in Istanbul have said they will continue their protests. There have also been calls in social networks for more people to participate. "It will not sleep. It will continue. Get onto Istanbul's streets," protest supporters posted to Facebook. Protesters have also used social networks and mobile phones to inform each other of which hospitals were treating the injured.
Additional demonstrations are planned for the coming days in Istanbul as well as other large Turkish cities to protest against what many see as the growing islamization of Turkish society.