In the BBC News today: Protesters have clashed with Turkish police in Istanbul, after riot squads used tear gas and water cannon to eject demonstrators from Gezi Park. Witnesses said it was one of the worst nights of unrest since the park was occupied 18 days ago. Medical officials estimate that 5,000 people have been injured and at least four killed since protests began in earnest on 31 May.
Thousands of people also took to the streets of the capital, Ankara, to express support for the protests. Plans to redevelop Istanbul's Gezi Park into a complex with new mosque and shopping centre have sparked a wave of protests in the Turkish city and beyond. The park is the only green area left in the city and the citizens say the ill-conceived plan was rushed though and passed by the government without proper talks.
31 May: Protests begin in Gezi Park over plans to redevelop one of Istanbul's few green spaces
3 June: Protesters establish camps with makeshift facilities from libraries to food centers
4-10 June: Protests widen into show of anti-government dissent in towns and cities across Turkey; clashes between police and demonstrators
11/12 June: Night of clashes see riot police disperse anti-government demonstrators in Taksim Square, which adjoins Gezi Park; camps in the park remain
13 June: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issues a "final warning" to protesters to leave Gezi Park
14 June: Government agrees to suspend Gezi Park redevelopment plans until a court rules on the issue, PM holds talks with members of a key protest group
15 June: Police move in, clearing protesters from Gezi Park
Setting aside the relevance of violence for any reason, let's focus on areas of peace and tranquility for city dwellers. As the world's population is drawn to ever-growing cities, the importance of green spaces is increasing. The benefits of green infrastructure are compelling. A recent study of over 350,000 people in the UK found that people residing near a park or reserve lived longer and health inequalities were significantly reduced. Natural greenspace in towns and cities can play an important part in helping to safeguard our national treasure of wildlife and geological features as well.
I'm lucky to live amongst green space—fields with horses to the back, and a strip of giant hose chestnut trees lining the other side of the busy road at the front. Beyond that, more fields as far as the eye can see. I would find returning to suburbia repugnant. Yet most of the population lives in built-up areas. They need access to parks where children can run free, feed the ducks and play. Adults should have a space where they can relax the mind and let Mother Nature wash over them, listen to the birds, and hear leaves rustle in the wind.
It's a shame that demonstrations and marches are the public's last resort to achieving their goal. They may have wanted a peaceful protest, but things escalated into violence in Turkey when the authorities became involved. What would you do if the same thing happened to you?