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Turkish protesters give Erdogan silent treatment

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkey's demonstrations took a new twist on Tuesday, as plazas, malls and public spaces across the country filled with people trying a new form of protest: doing nothing.

Protesters opposed to the 10-year rule of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he may have driven them from central Istanbul's Gezi Park, which they had occupied for more than two weeks, but that he could not arrest them for standing still. More than a thousand people trickled into Taksim Square throughout the day, staring silently at a massive portrait of the country's founding father that security forces hung last week on a building.

The new style of protest — inspired by a single performance artist who late on Monday appeared to be the first to do it in Taksim Square — came on a day of continued crackdown by Erdogan's government. More than 80 people were detained, many of them from left-wing political parties, and Erdogan said he wanted to expand police powers. His government also said it was planning to enact a "cyberterrorism" law to regulate the use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, that have become a vital means for protesters to communicate.

"We will strengthen our police force in every way possible so that we can increase their power against all these events," Erdogan told a Justice and Development Party parliamentary meeting in Ankara.

The U.N. human rights agency, meanwhile, raised concerns Tuesday that tear gas and pepper spray had been fired directly at protesters and inside closed spaces.

Protesters had occupied Taksim Square and adjoining Gezi Park for more than two weeks when police swooped in Saturday, using tear gas and water cannons to push people out. What began as a protest over the park's demolition quickly spread to more general objections about what many opposed to Erdogan describe as his creeping authoritarianism and restrictions on personal liberties.

Demonstrators participate in a “standing man protest’’ Tuesday at Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey.

European Press Agency

Demonstrators participate in a “standing man protest’’ Tuesday at Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey.

Turkish protesters give Erdogan silent treatment 06/18/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 12:40am]
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