ISTANBUL (AP) — Riot police on Wednesday clashed with mourners in Istanbul following the funeral of a Turkish teenager who died nine months after being hit by a police tear-gas canister during anti-government protests.
Police fired water cannon and tear gas to stop thousands from reaching Istanbul's main square after the funeral of 15-year old Berkin Elvan who died on Tuesday, sparking renewed protests across Turkey. The boy never regained consciousness after his injury.
On Wednesday, tens of thousands joined a funeral procession in Istanbul, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mourners chanted "Berkin Elvan is immortal," ''Government resign!" and "Murderer Tayyip." Some protesters hurled stones at a ruling party building, smashing its windows.
Police also used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters in the capital Ankara and in Izmir.
The protesters' anger was directed at Erdogan because he sanctioned the often heavy-handed crackdown on the wave of protests that swept Turkey in the summer, and praised police as heroes. Eight people, including Berkin, died as a result of the clashes.
Berkin's death comes at a time when Erdogan is fighting allegations of corruption and has taken a series of controversial steps — including removing police and prosecutors from key positions — which critics say are aimed at stalling investigations into alleged corruption. Turkey holds local elections on March 30, which Erdogan has acknowledged will act as a referendum on his rule.
Berkin was on his way to buy bread during anti-government street protests when he was struck in the head by a high-velocity gas canister. Several police officers were questioned about Berkin's injury but no one has been charged.
The protests began as a small environmental sit-in against government plans to redevelop a central Istanbul park, but turned into nationwide demonstrations against Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian style after police used force against those protesters.