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In Soma, anger boils over

By Ivan Watson, CNN
updated 1:16 PM EDT, Fri May 16, 2014
  • CNN correspondent describes scene as protesters and police clash in Soma
  • Police used a water cannon, plastic pellets and tear gas on protesters, Ivan Watson says
  • The clash lasted only a half-hour, but the standoff continues, he says

(CNN) -- They marched down Soma's main street Friday, chanting "Don't sleep Soma, remember your dead."

Wearing black in honor of the dead, they passed by shop windows and apartment balconies draped with black funeral flags, Turkish flags and signs reading, "Condolences."

When they came to a wall of Turkish riot police, an anonymous government official wearing a suit and carrying a microphone ordered them to disperse.

The riot police directed the crowd up a hill, away from a monument to coal miners in the city center.

And then, in front of the Soma Town Hall, a police riot control vehicle opened up on the crowd with a water cannon, spraying red-dyed water at the demonstrators.

I saw several people knocked over. A few enraged demonstrators began hurling bottles and debris at the vehicle. The crowd started screaming in rage after a man was knocked unconscious on the street, as a police officer fired plastic pellets into the crowd.

The man was carried unconscious through the riot police for emergency medical care. Meanwhile, the situation rapidly deteriorated, as police began lobbing tear gas canisters through the streets of what is normally a sleepy mining town.

Phalanxes of police chased demonstrators through side streets. I saw police lob a half-dozen tear gas canisters down the main street. One landed on the fourth-floor balcony of a residential apartment, where it belched gas inside.

Some people watched from their homes and yelled down at police. Freelance CNN cameraman Ibrahim Karci and I were badly gassed in this volley.

After about a half-hour, the violence calmed down in the center of town.

Squads of riot police stood in the main street next to the riot control vehicle, as residents lined the sidewalks staring at them.

One man collapsed, weeping on the street next to the boots of a riot police officer, yelling, "Why are you firing tear gas in Soma? My friends' bodies still haven't been found, and you're firing tear gas."

The standoff goes on.

Protesters and police clash in Soma amid mounting questions about mine fire

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