Turkish police disperse environmentalists in Istanbul

Protesters holding small trees walk towards Turkish police and an excavator on October 21, 2013.

Story highlights

  • Demonstrators in Istanbul protest construction of a road through a forest in Ankara
  • Police use their shields and water cannons to clear Istanbul's main commercial street
  • Prime Minister: "For a road, everything can be sacrificed, because a road is civilization"

Police used water cannons to disperse hundreds of demonstrators gathered Tuesday in Istanbul's main commercial street to protest the building of a road through a university forest in the Turkish capital city of Ankara.

Protesters gathered in Istiklal Street and chanted anti-government slogans such as, "This is just the beginning, the resistance will continue," "A thousand greetings to the resistance," "Killer police will pay," and "Police go away, these streets are ours."

The new round of protests in Istanbul erupted after the Ankara Municipality began cutting trees Friday in the Middle Eastern Technical University forest to make way for a highway development project.

Police used their shields and water cannons to clear the main part of Istiklal Street, pushing protesters into side streets.

"This is not a designated meeting area. Please clear the street," the police announced over loudspeakers. One protester was knocked to the ground by a water cannon and lost consciousness for several minutes.

"In a bit they will start rounding up people. There is no law left in the country," said a lawyer from the Istanbul Bar Association on standby in case of detentions.

Earlier in the day, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech delivered in parliament that the construction of the road would go on and criticized the demonstrators.

    "For a road, everything can be sacrificed, because a road is civilization. But those who are not civilized will not understand the value of a road. They don't know it," he said.

    The ruling Justice and Development Party has come under criticism for its large-scale development projects. In May, widespread protests swept through Turkey over plans to turn a central Istanbul park into a shopping mall.