UPDATED - ‘There’s been lots of water cannon and tear gas’: Politician flees Istanbul protests

Protests in Istiklal Street, Istanbul
Protests in Istiklal Street, Istanbul

A Bedgrove politician ound himself caught up in the Istanbul protests while on holiday today (Monday).

Conservative district councillor Tom Hunter-Watts has been forced to seek shelter in a cafe on Istiklal Street after police used tear gas and water cannons on protesters in Gezi Park.

District councillor Tom Hunter-Watts

District councillor Tom Hunter-Watts

The park was the starting point for June’s protests when protesters staged a sit-in against development plans for it. A heavy police reaction sparked nationwide protests against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for his authoritarian leadership and a range of issues.

Mr Hunter-Watts said to The Bucks Herald on Twitter: “I found myself running away from tear gas in Istanbul. Some of my Turkish friends are taking part in the protests. There’s been lots more water cannon and tear gas.

“I smelt the tear gas straightaway, which was extremely sour and gave me heart palpitations, as it often does in people. I’m told that the tear gas they use now is rather more unpleasant than it was in previous years.

“I went to the cafe where I’d been heading anyway. Young people started rushing in and out with each new volley of tear gas as the police moved to secure the length of the main street off Taksim Square.

“A water cannon moved up and down hosing people away, and eventually a larger group of police arrived in a cloud of tear gas, and people started appearing with injuries. I’m told the police had been using plastic bullets, and certainly some people seemed quite badly hurt.

“It seemed to be about to get worse rather than calm down, and the cafe was closing its shutters, so I left via a side street.

“Turkish society is very polarised between those who support the Islamist government and those who reject it. There seems no appetite for compromise from the government, who used tear gas and water cannon as a first resort.”

The park had been closed for three weeks but reopened today only for it to be subsequently closed just three hours later after another rally was planned.