So. Fla. Turkish activists hold local protest
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WSVN) -- Activists from South Florida's Turkish community took to the streets Sunday, carrying signs of support and calling for change following violent clashes between civilians and riot police in their home country.
Hundreds gathered for a local protest near Huizenga Park in Fort Lauderdale to deliver a message to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan. "We just want to show everyone we want peace at home and around the world," said Hilal Borque, who indicated their protest is peaceful.
"We feel their fear," added Borque, referring to those who clashed with authorities in her home country. "We don't sleep here. We're watching Gezi Park every day from anywhere we can find [access to coverage]."
Many demonstrators said that, under Erdoðan's leadership, Turkey has been making a shift from democracy to dictatorship. "We're here to support, [to let them know] that they are not alone," Borque said. "Because right now our democracy is under attack."
The latest unrest in Turkey started June 1 as a sit-in to protest development at a park in Istanbul, but the movement took a violent turn as it spread to other cities. Riot police cracked down with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons. Protesters said they regard these developments as proof of what they see as Erdoðan's authoritarian rule.
A Turkish rights group said at least five people are dead and more than 5,000 have been injured. According to government officials, their official tally is 44 people treated at hospitals. "[We're] trying to show support for the Turkish people," said local protester Sermin Unsal. "Our people there are under restrictions, government restrictions."
Many in South Florida said that the upheaval may have started with the Gezi Park riots, but the focus has shifted. "After all of these insults we've received from our prime minister, the civilians of my nation are saying, 'What are you doing?'" said Borque.
In front of hundreds of thousands of his supporters on Sunday, Prime Minister Erdoðan said it was his duty to order riot police to evict activists occupying Taksim Square and Gezi Park. "We allowed freedom of speech to flourish, making demonstrations," he said through an English translator. "Marching was limited in Turkey. We were able to make people be able to demonstrate."
Protesters in Turkey and South Florida said they will continue to fight.
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