Riot police fired tear gas canisters and water cannon at
rock-throwing protesters today, as a march organised to protest
against the IMFs annual meetings in Turkey turned into a
Several hundred demonstrators clashed with police in the
streets surrounding Taksim Square, just 200 metres from the
Istanbul Congress Centre where the IMF meetings are being
As rioters clashed with police wearing body armour in the
centre of the Turkish capital, shoppers ran for cover and
businesses shuttered up their businesses to escape the rocks
and tear gas.
Phalanxes of policemen wearing gas masks and helmets and
carrying riot shields and batons charged at groups of
protestors. Officers fired tear gas at the retreating groups
while armoured vehicles sprayed the demonstrators with water
The demonstrators, many were wearing red scarves to obscure
their identity and protect against the gas, responded with a
battery of stones and missiles. People pulled up the small
paving stones that are common on Istanbuls streets to use
as fresh ammunition.
Rocks smashed shop windows and dented parked cars while
several volleys of stones bounced off the police officers
shields. Protestors destroyed two cash machines just off Taksim
Square and set fire to the contents of a large paper recycling
container. Branches of foreign-owned banks such as HSBC were
sprayed with red graffiti paint.
Protesters carried placards emblazoned with the words
IMF out and chanting IMF get out of our
city. Many were carrying red flags of Socialist Platform
for the Oppressed, a Turkish campaign group.
Several pedestrians caught up in the skirmishes could be
seen rubbing their eyes after being affected by the clouds of
tear gas hanging in the air. Police helicopters hovered above
Cafe owners offered people lemon juice, which is effective
in reducing the symptoms for those affected by tear gas. Two
people were arrested by police and taken away in handcuffs.
Turkish police had erected security barriers along the
streets surrounding the Congress Centre several days before the
meetings began, making it clear that the security forces had
anticipated the possibility of violent protests.
A coalition of protest groups has called for two days of
protests against the IMF under the title Were
shutting the IMF & World Bank meeting down!
Turkey has been badly affected by the global financial
crisis and economic recession. Its economy is expected to
contract by 6.5% this year while the unemployment rate hit
15.5%, an all-time record and one of the highest rates for any
Turkey and the IMF are negotiating a potential new loan
agreement after the last one expired more than a year ago. IMF
chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said at the weekend that talks
would resume when the meetings end on Wednesday.
There is significant opposition among Turkish students to
the IMF, which helped bail Turkey out of a deep financial
crisis in 2001. Last week a student hurled a shoe at
Strauss-Kahn as during a question and answer session at Bilgi
University in Istanbul.
Taksim Square was the centre of a major protest in 1977 by
Socialist, Communist and Maoist groups organised by the
Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions in Turkey. An
estimated 500,000 people clashed with security forces on 1 May,
which is Labour Day.