Police fire tear gas at demonstrators near Taksim Square, Sunday June 16 (Photo: AP)
Turkey's trade unions are on strike today to protest the harsh police crackdown against demonstrators, which has led to 500 arrests.
Among the striking workers are doctors, who say they are going off the job in solidarity with medical workers who were arrested in Istanbul on Saturday after police drove protesters out of Gezi Park. Some doctors will remain on the job at hospitals in case of emergencies.
"The doctors were only trying to help the protesters by giving them emergency medical aid in the clinic set up inside the Divan Hotel," one witness told online journalist Lonna Lisa Williams.
"The police marched right into the five-star hotel and arrested these doctors dressed in white lab coats. They were led off with their hands behind them, handcuffed."
The World Health Organization, World Medical Association and Amnesty International have all issued statements condemning the arrests. Istanbul's governor denied that the people arrested were actual doctors, referring to them instead as "criminals."
"They wore doctors' white coats but had nothing to do with medicine or health. In fact, one of them had seven separate criminal records for theft," Governor Huseyin Avi Mutlu said on his Twitter account.
Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International's researcher in Turkey, said in a statement, "it is completely unacceptable that doctors should be threatened with prosecution for providing medical attention to people in need. The doctors must be released immediately and any threat to prosecute them removed."
In another development, the government has suggested that it may call in the armed forces to end unrest in the country.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on state television that the government would use "all its powers" and the army if necessary to end the conflict, the BBC reports.
Ethem Sarisuluk's coffin is loaded into a truck in Ankara, Sunday, June 16 (Photo: AP)
Since the protests began on May 28, about 5,000 people have been injured, and at least four have died, including one police officer.
The protests started in response to the government's plan to redevelop Istanbul's Gezi Park, which is part of Taksim Square, normally a major tourist destination in the city.
Demonstrations have since spread across the country, and turned into more general anti-government protests aimed at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his administration.
Erdogan referred to the demonstrators as "capulcu," which roughly translates to "looters." This has sparked some creativity online, with some Turks reappropriating the term, and referring to themselves as "capulcular."
YouTube user EscApelsin created this viral video, 'Every Day I'm Capulling', based on the tune 'Party Rock Anthem' by LMFAO:
And a group of musicians in New York calling themselves New York'lu Capulcular (The New York Looters) wrote and recorded a song expressing their solidarity with the protesters in Turkey.
The music is based on several Turkish classical compositions, while the lyrics are about their desire to join the demonstrators in Gezi Park. The video has received more than 100,000 views so far:
On Saturday, police cleared protesters out of the park and Taksim Square, ending the 18-day peaceful sit-in there, and police broke up related demonstrations in the capital, Ankara, and the southern city of Adana.
Today, demonstrators and union members tried to march back into Taksim, but were prevented by police, who maintained a lockdown, the Associated Press reports.
Prime Minister Erdogan held two rallies of his own in recent days, where he spoke and defended his decision to send in police to end the occupation of the park.
"I did my duty as Prime Minister," he told supporters in Ankara today. "Otherwise there would be no point in my being in office."
Erdogan speaks to supporters in Ankara Monday, June 17 (Photo: AP)
According to Amnesty International, more than 100 people were arrested during Saturday's demonstrations in Taksim and areas nearby.
The rights organization says Turkish police are refusing to give details of the detainees' whereabouts, NPR reports.