ISTANBUL – Thousands of protesters in Istanbul were celebrating victory early Sunday after police withdrew from the square at the center of one of the largest demonstrations against Turkey’s Islamist-rooted government.
Rights groups denounced police violence, with Amnesty International saying there had been two deaths, while the United States and Britain, Turkey’s allies, called on the government to show restraint.
Taksim Square has become the epicenter of demonstrations that have left dozens injured — hundreds according to Amnesty, which also said some protesters had been left blinded by tear gas used by police.
Late Saturday, however, the protesters danced and sang in the square after the police pullback, with some even launching fireworks in celebration.
What began as an outcry against a local development project has snowballed into a broader protest against what critics say is the government’s increasingly conservative and authoritarian agenda. Since the first clashes Friday, the unrest has spread to other cities across Turkey.