Gezi Park reeks, Turkish prime minister says
POSTED: Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 10:00am
UPDATED: Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 10:14am
Ben Brumfield and Gul Tuysuz CNN ISTANBUL — Turkey's prime minister called on protesters camped out in Istanbul's Gezi Park to pack up and leave.
"We are running out of patience," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told members of his party in the capital, Ankara, on Thursday. "I am making this warning for one last time."
Rather than softening his stance toward the protesters, he intensified his heated rhetoric, at times pushing into the absurd.
Gezi Park reeks, making it high time for police to clear it out, Erdogan said.
"It stinks of pee. In fact, some of them even poo in there."
He lashed out at rowdy demonstrators, whom he called "vagabonds" and "thugs."
But he also told peaceful protesters they need not complain about the actions of his police, because they had put themselves in the line of tear gas fire by associating with the wrong people and illegal groups.
"Where dry wood is burning, fresh wood will also burn unnecessarily," he said.
He vowed to continue routing out rowdies.
He ordered peaceful protesters out of the park, asking them to leave police alone with "illegal groups."
"I call on mothers to take their children from the park," he admonished them. "Gezi Park does not belong to occupiers. It belongs to Istanbul's people."
Erdogan's party has organized counterprotests for the weekend to give a voice to Turkey's "quiet majority to the people and the world," he said. They will show the international community "a real, true picture of Turkey."
Two rallies will be held away from anti-government protests to avoid possible confrontations, he said.
Potential negotiations between Erdogan and protest leaders deteriorated Wednesday, when many of the leaders backed out over resentment of heavy-handed police measures the previous night.
The meeting turned into a powwow between the prime minister and protesters friendly with his government, one protest leader who did not attend said.
With no sign of meaningful negotiations with protesters on the horizon, Turkey, a NATO ally with a democratically elected government, could see clashes grip more of the country.
And harsh actions against protesters could strain Erdogan's strategic friendships with much of the West -- relationships that are particularly critical in light of the civil war ravaging Turkey's neighbor, Syria.
The anti-Erdogan protests show no sign of abating.
What began in late May as a demonstration focused on the environment -- opposition to a plan to build a mall in Gezi Park -- has evolved into a crusade against Erdogan that's spread around the country.
Erdogan also dealt a slap to the European Union for a resolution it passed Thursday condemning his country's police crackdown on protesters and the suppression of opposition voices.
"The European Parliament's decisions about us, I am not recognizing those decisions," he said.
The comments triggered a thunderous standing ovation and roaring cheers from party members.
"How dare you make such decisions about my country?"
Turkey has for many years expressed the desire to become a member of the union.
Experts and human rights groups say Erdogan's government lags when it comes to human rights and freedom of expression by opponents.
"Prosecutors and courts continued to use terrorism laws to prosecute and prolong incarceration of thousands of Kurdish political activists, human rights defenders, students, journalists and trade unionists," Human Rights Watch wrote in a 2013 report on Turkey.
Turkish journalists are afraid to write anything critical of the government, and media companies are slapped with huge tax fines for covering uncomfortable topics.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkish authorities have targeted journalists with detention for covering the protests.
The prime minister has said many times he will not back down.