World Bulletin/News Desk
Riot police clashed with demonstrators in several Turkish cities for a second day on Wednesday as mourners buried a teenager wounded in protests last summer, unrest which a defiant Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan cast as a plot against the state.
Police fired water cannon, tear gas and rubber pellets on a major Istanbul avenue to stop tens of thousands of people chanting anti-government slogans from reaching the central Taksim square. There were similar scenes in the centre of the capital Ankara and in the Aegean coastal city of Izmir.
Erdogan, campaigning around the country for March 30 local elections, said they would be silenced at the ballot box.
"Trying to set fire to the streets 18 days before elections is not a democratic stance," he told throngs of supporters at a rally in the southeastern city of Mardin.
He accused a coalition of "anarchists, terrorists and vandals" as well as the opposition and an influential U.S.-based Islamic cleric of stoking unrest to undermine him.
"Scenarios are being prepared to shatter the peace. They are implementing new provocations to stir up the streets," he said, calling on Turks to be vigilant against such provocations.
On Wednesday, Istanbul protesters hurled firecrackers behind police lines, while hundreds of people, including bystanders caught up in the melee, took refuge in a shopping mall and a hotel lobby as police fired tear gas and pepper spray.
Protesters stood by fires at barricades blocking roads around the poor Okmeydani neighbourhood. Signs on shop windows said stores would remain shut for two days, while traders sold black and white flags bearing Berkin's face.
Two labour unions called a one-day strike while professors at some universities announced they were cancelling classes.
In the eastern province of Tunceli, which has an Alevi majority, around 1,000 school children marched across town and staged a sit-in in front of the offices of the ruling AK Party.
Last Mod: 12 Mart 2014, 22:22