Turkey threatens to deploy Army against protesters, dubs unions strike ‘illegal’

Turkey threatens to deploy Army against protesters, dubs unions strike ‘illegal’
Turkish government said it could deploy armed forces to quell anti-government protests. It also called the nationwide general strike announced by unions “illegal.” In Ankara the police have blocked the striking workers, threatening them with use of force.

Follow RT’s LIVE UPDATES on the protests in Turkey

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc on Monday warned the anti-government demonstrators that the army could be used if they don’t stop their protests.

“Our police, our security forces are doing their jobs. If it’s not enough then the gendarmes will do their jobs. If that’s not enough ... we could even use elements of the Turkish Armed Forces,” Arinc told Turkey’s state-run TRT television, as quoted by Reuters.

Meanwhile, water cannon-backed riot police have stopped a thousand-strong march of trade union workers in the Turkish capital, Ankara. The police threatened the workers with force if they didn’t give up their advance towards the city’s Kizilay district, where fierce clashes were going on yesterday.

“Those of you on the streets must stop blocking the streets. Do not be provoked. The police will use force,” they shouted through megaphones.

However, Turkish trade unionists kept calling for strikes and marches in cities like Istanbul, despite government threats.

Anti-government protesters demonstrate in central Ankara on June 17, 2013 (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)

Five Turkish trade unions, including the 240,000-member-strong public sector union confederation KESK, have announced a nationwide strike on Monday, June 17 in protest of police violence at Taksim.

“There is an attempt to bring people on to the streets through illegal protests like a strike. I want to state that it will not be permitted,” was Interior Minister Muammer Guler’s, response as quoted by AFP.

On Sunday, the Ankara governor’s office said it was banning all downtown demonstrations from June 16, and threatened protesters with immediate police intervention.

Clashes have been reported on Monday in the northwestern Turkish city of Eskisehir. The police have fired tear gas and peppered water to disperse crowds of protesters, and then demolished hundreds of their tents, Dogan news agency reported.

In Istanbul, the police arrested 441 people during violent street clashes overnight, the city’s bar association has said. Riot police raided and chased groups of protesters marching towards the landmark Taksim Square on Sunday, using rounds of tear gas and water cannon to prevent them from regrouping.

EU: 'We watch with concerns'

Turkey’s tough response to the protests has triggered concerns among the EU officials, fuelling doubts as the country’s suitability for admission to the bloc.

“Turkey needs de-escalation and dialogue, not continuation of excessive use of force against peaceful protesters. We watch with concerns,” European Union enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele tweeted overnight.

Protesters escape from a water cannon as they clash with police during an anti-government demonstration in Ankara on June 16, 2013 (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she is “appalled, like many others” with the developments in Turkey.

“What’s happening in Turkey at the moment is not in line with our idea of the freedom to demonstrate or freedom of speech,” Merkel told the German broadcaster RTL.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has bluntly responded to such concerns by saying “know your place” to the EU institutions at his AK party’s Istanbul rally on Sunday.

Erdogan has said there is “no honesty” and “no respect for democracy” in European Parliament, referring to the EP statement which has condemned the Turkish police brutality against peaceful protesters.