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4:56 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Some Turkish Protesters Optimistic After Meeting With Leaders

Originally published on Fri June 14, 2013 6:12 pm

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. In Istanbul, after more than two weeks of unrest, some protest organizers are claiming a moment of success. The prime minister has given them a proposal. The government won't demolish Gezi Park until a court issues a ruling on a big development project planned for the site. It may even submit the project to a referendum. But as NPR's Peter Kenyon reports, after a meeting to debate that proposal, it's clear that not all demonstrators are satisfied.

PETER KENYON BYLINE: The passionate cacophony that is the Gezi Park protest paused today to focus on a single unusual item of business. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was actually seeking their opinion on something.

The crowd loved the description of the leader who's called them looters and marginal characters for two weeks being forced to sit and listen to protestors make their demands. But the Taksim solidarity platform primarily concerned with saving the green space in Gezi Park does not claim to speak for all the protestors. And the difficulty of convincing such a diverse group to rally behind any single proposal soon became apparent.

A platform member came forward with the details of the offer. The government promises to leave Gezi Park untouched while a court rules on the plan to build an Ottoman-era barracks on the site. And if the court decides the project can go ahead, the government will seek public approval in a referendum before acting. The mood of the crowd suddenly turned querulous.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD)

BYLINE: Once the organizers finished explaining the ins and outs of the Gezi Park offer, the crowd responded with one of its favorite chants, perhaps not precisely on point.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHANTING)

BYLINE: Government resign, they shouted. A young demonstrator in the crowd, Feliz, voiced a common objection to the proposal, that the government can't be trusted to uphold its end.

FELIZ: (Through Translator) I don't think this will solve anything because we have a dictator in charge, she says. Adding, he's been there over 10 years and thinks he can do what he wants.

BYLINE: As the crowd divided itself into smaller groups to discuss the merits of the proposal and how to respond, Taksim solidarity platform spokeswoman Bilgay Setchkin took a more positive view, arguing that it marks a significant change in attitude from Erdogan and the ruling party, the AKP.

BILGAY SETCHKIN: He recognized his extent of his power. That's very important. I mean, AKP hegemony wants (inaudible). And these are main positive points for us. Lots of people are here for protesting nearly everything related with AKP. I don't know really because no one knows. But for now, we are in the (inaudible) point. We don't want to lose it.

BYLINE: The prime minister has a different view of the meeting, not surprisingly. Earlier today Erdogan said he's hoping these organizers can convince the demonstrators to leave the park because they've had, in his words, their final warning. The AKP has called for large pro-government rallies tomorrow in Ankara and Sunday in Istanbul. Riot police, meanwhile, remain very near Gezi Park awaiting orders. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.