Protesters, police square off in Istanbul as teen is buried

Boy, 15, was hit by tear gas canister during marches




ISTANBUL — Police used water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas Wednesday to clear protesters in central Istanbul, where tens of thousands of people had gathered for the funeral of a boy who died this week from injuries sustained during anti-government demonstrations last year.

Clashes ensued when police tried to clear out protesters at at least two sites in Istanbul as the demonstrators who remained responded by setting up barricades and throwing stones at officers.

Protests also were held in the capital, Ankara, where police used tear gas against several thousand activists.

Marches took place across Istanbul on Wednesday, but the largest rallies came to a standstill as authorities brought in water cannon and armored vehicles and boxed in protesters.

Demonstrators waved flags and blew whistles, and some spray-painted the name of Berkin Elvan on buses and buildings.

Berkin was 14 when he was hit in the head nine months ago by a tear gas canister fired by police while he was out shopping for bread for his family during an anti-government rally. He became a symbol of police violence and died Tuesday at the age of 15.

"We are protesting against the irresponsibility of the government and the fact that there has been no investigation" into Berkin's death, protester Derin Dayhan, 31, said.

Demonstrators also expressed anger that authorities fired tear gas at one of Wednesday's peaceful memorial marches. "They used tear gas on people who were trying to mourn this boy, and now this has made the people angrier," said a woman who would only identify herself as Ceda.

While Berkin's killing was the catalyst for protests Tuesday and Wednesday, demonstrators made clear larger issues were at stake.

"There is too much state control over our lives," composer Caglayan Yildiz said. "The injustice that is happening is driving us out onto the streets. The economy is not doing well. The country is surviving on debt. The government has no environmental policy."

Protesters called Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a murderer and a thief in reference to the corruption scandals that have recently hit his government. They chanted slogans such as "Shoulder to shoulder against fascism" and "Everywhere resistance."

Berkin's funeral took place in the afternoon and was held a day after his death sparked clashes between activists and police in several Turkish cities that extended late into the night and led to arrests.

The Elvan family has blamed Erdogan's conservative government for the boy's death, which occurred after he had spent months in a coma.

The international rights group Human Rights Watch said no proper investigation has been conducted into Berkin's death and Turkey suffers from a record of "police violence and lack of accountability."