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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Fireworks And Tear Gas In Taksim Square; Tear Gas Hits CNN's Arwa Damon's Location; Turkish Police Charge at Protesters
Aired June 11, 2013 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: "OUTFRONT" next, breaking news. Turkey erupting into violence. Reporters struggling against tear gas just to tell the story. We're going to take you there live for the latest.
Plus a hint from Hillary, what some people believe is her first Twitter post and the real meaning behind it.
Also the U.S. government building a case against Mr. Edward Snowden, what charges might that NSA leaker face? Let's go OUTFRONT.
Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. I am in for Erin Burnett. Tonight, OUTFRONT, we got breaking news right off the bat, beginning with some extraordinary violence in a place that is really better known for its ancient ruins, cobalt seas, and American allies, Turkey. It has exploded into fire and tear gas tonight.
This is a green revolution of an entirely different sort because it started as a simple protest over green space, parks that were disappearing, but it has devolved into so much more. You might say a vote of no confidence by Turkey's people towards its long-standing prime minister.
Just look at the scene in the last few hours as riot police moved in on tens of thousands of protesters in Istanbul's Taksim Square. Within minutes, the scene erupted into a volley of stun grenades, firecrackers, water cannons, and tear gas. It got so bad, CNN's Arwa Damon was overcome by gas as she was trying to report live.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're right now in the very front of the park. You can see people trying to help us out because of the tear gas. The entire front part of the park right now has been cleared out because of the intensity of what was just fired in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: We are just learning they have been tear gassed again. You saw peppermint being sprayed into Arwa's eyes. That was the CNN crew trying to help her so she could continue her live reporting. Make no mistake here, the protesters have been lobbing Molotov cocktails at armored vehicles that came in to break up all those crowds. But they were armed with little else, other than wooden boards that they were using as shields.
Our Arwa Damon is still live with us. Arwa, I just wanted to check in with you. Are you able to report? I know you have a gas mask? Are you able to speak right now?
DAMON: Yes. Yes, Ashleigh, actually, tear gas inside Gezi Park right now -- all around us, all of this just evolving in the last few minutes as riot police push their way forward, down the side street. In the park in that direction there is tear gas coming into the park itself. A lot of people really overcome by all of this, trying to deal with it. Cope with it.
The situation certainly escalating especially in the last few minutes as riot police broke through the barricades on the side street and managed to move even further forward. The canisters landing in the tents and also in one of the -- one of the buildings here that is surrounded by glass itself, tear gas billowing right in front of where we are right now.
People incredibly angry the way that the riot police have acted. You are seeing this anger throughout the crowd and the riot police have used the tear gas continued to intensify. And they're really rallying around one another as well. You see a lot of them, pouring this white liquid into each other's eyes. That is actually used to ease the sting and burn.
They had promised to allow the demonstration to continue. The riot police have not entered the park itself. The tear gas is now landing inside the park if I move around here forward and where it was taking place between the demonstrators and the riot police as I was saying. The riot police ran into Taksim Square, some of the demonstrators trying to push their way forward right now.
They'll run forward, sometimes, and grab the tear gas canisters and lob them right back at the riot police. They are screaming "be careful" to one another and people will try to calm those who are inside the camp down because it is so densely populated here. That -- they're so densely populated here, the tear gas canisters --
BANFIELD: I am concerned about your safety and the crew's safety. It looks like it escalated throughout the day. I just want to know if there are any concerns that these tear gas canisters can turn into anything else, rubber bullets, an all-out assault? Because a lot of those riot police that were amassing behind the vehicle, is there any concerned for the people you're covering at this point and your crew as well?
DAMON: I think we are in a pretty OK position. What you can see in front right now is some of the demonstrators are trying to collect (inaudible) lob the rocks back towards the riot police. Anger, really, really flaring inside Gezi Park itself. They're screaming for a doctor to help that man.
BANFIELD: Arwa, please make sure you and the crew are OK at this point, if there is incoming. I can see they're picking up rocks and volleying them. If you're in any danger, we need you to get out of there. Please let us know the minute you need to shut this down.
DAMON: Yes, yes, we will do. We will do. The canister they lobbed back in the other direction.
BANFIELD: Can you characterize -- who the protesters are? Arwa, earlier, these were a lot of peaceful protesters, protesting the loss of green space and it seems there is a lot more violence. Are these the kind of protesters you have seen throughout the last 18 hours, two days or are they changing?
DAMON: Look, there is many different layers to the protests --
BANFIELD: All right, that is a grave concern for us. Clearly, look, CNN crews put themselves in danger all the time to cover war. Arwa Damon is no stranger to this. She's been in and out of Syria. Her life has been in danger many times. But look, if we got a signal issue with Arwa Damon. We need to clear her. Clear our crew.
I can just tell you this. If you have been following, CNN's reporting, our Nick Paton Walsh has been watching over that square for 18 hours. He's had a gas mask on for 18 hours. Those protesters have ebbed and flowed. Only within the last hour and a half there seemed to be an ebb and now it has escalated again, as the Arwa, reporting, hard to make out what she was saying under the gas mask.
But as she was reporting, the police and those riot crews advanced on barriers. Hard to make it out from the pictures we are showing, but there was an advance to push down the protesters' barriers. Clearly the escalation at Arwa and her crew's location, it happens in a flash. It can be dangerous. Sometimes protesters have one protest in mind.
Others can have something different, trouble, and big trouble. We have seen that happen with a CBS crew before. We have seen some of our reporters injured and assaulted before so clearly a big concern for Arwa Damon. I don't know if she is able to hear me any longer or if we have any of our reporting staff, or a clearance that they're OK.
But if we can get our producing staff in Istanbul to at least get us some clear that Arwa and her staff are all right. We definitely want to make sure that that is OK. Here is the other issue. These are protesters, many of them who have spent days trying to get a message out, usually about the green space, usually about the innocuous.
But it has evolved into something different. The prime minister of this country has the said that he will have none of this. He is using an iron fist, at least with the rhetoric he has been employing in trying to quell what is happening in his streets, to say "this is not Turkey. This is not the way we want of our international image. I will not stand for this protest in our streets."
Not being met well though because when you send in the riot police in this kind of demonstration with 10,000 people there is bound to be death and injuries and there has been, upwards of 5,000 injuries so far in the past days and weeks of this protest. Today, however, it is an entire leave different scene that we are seeing playing out in Turkey.
You are seeing Istanbul, a center square, but it has been difficult throughout the country. You often hear it characterized as a cultural battle, those who support the president, those who support conservatism, and those who want some kind of change. If you have ever been to Turkey, it is very unlike many of the Middle Eastern countries you may have heard and seen on the news before.
It is very modern. There is a lot of wealth. There's a lot of advancement. There's a lot of freedom. There's a lot of social freedom. It is not exactly what you think of as the typical place that you have seen Arab spring uprisings before, which is why this has taken so many people by surprise. There you have it. Many of them armed with Molotov cocktails and wooden shields, trying to battle up against a very strong riot police force.
I think Arwa Damon is back up with us. Arwa, are you with us on the phone? Are you safe?
DAMON (via telephone): Yes, I am on the phone. My crew and I are safe. We are fine. We just had to move back a bit. It got pretty intense. We moved into another part of the camp right now. A bit further away from where that tear gas was coming at us. Now that tear gas was coming down one side of the camp, one side street.
We have now moved toward the other. We can hear tear gas being fired down the side street as well. And the riot police are really trying to -- push through and clear these streets on either side of Gezi Park. It is -- at this point.
BANFIELD: Arwa, I was asking earlier, just before it really escalated. What kind of protesters are we seeing there? As this escalates, have they changed? Often times we see these things a lot of anarchists can show up. The prime minister called some of these people terrorists. Are these protesters, students, a run-of-the-mill middle-class people who want change or has it changed into a different dynamic, and a different cadre of people?
DAMON: Look, the protesters here are multilayered and very different. You have the core Gezi Park protesters. The people that are constantly, you know, camped out here, the people that showed up here when they were done with work. They're very peaceful and, they tend to, they stay away from the front lines barricades, and they will go out and watch what is happening and come back.
Yes, you do have these smaller groups that are the ones that are throwing the rocks and Molotov cocktails at riot police. It was quite interesting, actually, because earlier in the day when there were smaller clashes taking place, we witnessed some of these, Gezi Park demonstrators trying to calm the situation down, which is what they were calling the stone throwers and the riot police.
They got into a heated argument saying it is because of the rock throwing, the curses that were being directed at the riot police, all being met with the tear gas, which is in discriminatory. You have an escalation of the situation here with the tear gas landing in Gezi Park itself for the last few hours. People are incredibly angered by all of this.
But that being said, the vast majority of the protesters are not the ones who, who are acting in an aggressive manner against the riot police. And we do say there is a simple solution to all of this -- to bring all of this to the end. That would be for the government to reverse its plans for turning Gezi Park into that shopping mall.
But at the same time, as we have been seeing throughout all of this, these demonstrations have devolved into something bigger than the park itself. People are expressing their anger and, the government's increasingly authoritarian rule they say at the imposition of various legislation that they say is because of the government's conservative, Islamist values.
Bearing in mind that Turkey defines itself as a secular nation, one that since modern day creation has really prided itself on the fact that it is utterly separates politics and religion. And many of Prime Minister Erdogan's opponents say ever since he has come to power that is really no longer been the case.
BANFIELD: It's fascinating to hear, to watch, but also a bit nerve- racking as we have been watching you all day, Arwa, so, please take the utmost care, you and your crew. Ensure that you are safe. We have plenty of camera angles we can cover this from. We appreciate the hard and taxing work that you have been doing throughout the day.
Arwa Damon is live in Istanbul. She in the middle of that, she and her crew, CNN group with nerves of steel putting themselves at grave risk to bring the story to you as it unfolds live only as CNN can. We have a lot more of this breaking news from Turkey coming up. Another of my colleagues I've have watched for 18 hours, Nick Paton Walsh, with a gas mask, and again an iron gut. He is also watching Taksim Square and he will join us live right after the break.
BANFIELD: Want to bring you back up to speed on our breaking news. What we have been watching in Istanbul, Turkey. Fire in the streets, tear gas canisters being lobbed almost indiscriminately at protesters who are fighting back against riot police who have just in the last few moments have been encroaching closer and closer onto these protesters. Barreling down their barricade and starting up what appears to be another escalation in what has been a day, a day of extreme violence in a place that sees it very little.
I want to go live to our Nick Paton Walsh who's standing by, who has been covering 18 hours of the tear gas volley. And not only that, but the rocks and the stones and the water cannons.
Nick is standing by also. He has got a gas mask on as well. So I just caution you it is a little tricky to make out what our reporters are saying. But they have been coping with this, like I said for hours upon hours. Nick, can you hear me?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT : Ashleigh, I can hear you fine. No need for a gas mask at this particular point because down to the left of Gezi Park, a standoff between police and protesters behind barricade has basically been dissolved by the police driving a bulldozer and clearing where there's barricade.
But there is now something else happening on the other side of Gezi Park. The pictures you are seeing, thoise police officers donning their riot helmets. In front you can see the pickup trucks sent in to clear the debris. That seems to be the focus right now. Police operations get as much of these barricades and debris away as you possibly can.
I should point out, earlier on this evening, we were seeing large numbers of protesters, gathered on the edge of Gezi Park, the area of green at the very center of this protest. We have seen them come to the edge to look at what was happening. They're not there anymore. There seems to be a drop in the number of people inside that wooded area. We are not quite sure what is happening on the further reach of Gezi Park, whereas I say, those police are putting on their riot helmet and gathering in number. They appear to be getting ready to do something.
What is happening closer to me is a swift police operation to clean up the debris of the barricade. They've pushed the protesters well back now. We have not seen much tear gas for a while. It used to waft in regularly to this live position, hence the reason for me doing much of this in a gas mask. But now, quiet behind me. In some ways a little eerie. We are trying to work out of this marks (ph). The police finally getting dominance over this particular area. We've been standing here for 18 hours now, watching these clashes unfold, questioning what exactly its the broader police strategy how to get control of this vital part of the center of Turkey's commercial hub.
BANFIELD: Truthfully, Nick, this is a country that is just a delight to visit. It is so modern. And the people are so friendly. It is one of the last places we might have expected to see this but for the fact there has been the seething problem between the culture clash of sorts there. The conservatives and those who are not so conservative. And yet you have to wonder if so much of what we are seeing, the chaos on our screens, is more a reaction to the brute force that arrived to try to quaush this. Because that prime minister said these are terrorists. Are they reacting more, and that's why there is chaos? Or is this truly the explosion waiting to happen for years?
PATON: You know, I think what we saw in these 12 days was initially a protest. Conservationists trying to keep the trees in police. And then police violence, police tactics, brought people out on the streets. I saw so many people simply there wanting an apology for the amount of the tear gas that had been fired at them. That was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more police you sent out, the more tear gas they used, the more protesters followed hours later. There was a lull for a week in the police tactics. And now they have come up here again.
But to go back to your earlier point, Ashleigh, about the clash of cultures within Turkey, there's so much of what people love about Turkey has been its breakneck economic development here, thrusting the country into the modern era in a decade of incredible development, which Prime Minister Erdogan was very much at the core of. But the cost of that has been much construction. Like the plan to remove the trees, the very remaining green space in the center of Istanbul where protesters now are and replace it with a mall or perhaps a museum. A very ostentatious plan the administration had to resculpt the center of the city here.
That is a cost which many traditionalists here in Turkey, secular middle-class, intellectuals were appalled by. They wanted to see the old Istanbul they knew, their old way of life contained. And they've been concerned that the kind of conservatism preached by Prime Minister Erdogan, or certainly encouraged by him on the basis that he has 50 percent of the population voting for him on three separate occasions. He was really angered -- angered them, and that often became part of what we saw in these protest along with them being fueled by police tactics.
BANFIELD: Nick, Americans look at this, they wonder, who are the good guys here? Who are the bad guys here? So often we want to tend to side with protesters, thinking they're finally rising up against an oppressive regime. But doesn't Prime Minister Erdogan deserve some credit for what he's been able to do with this country? This is a modern country that has beaten the odds of a lot of places in the Middle East, allies of the United States. We have a great deal of interest with this country. Is Erdogan winning against the protesters? Should he be?
WALSH: That's one that people say the cost of a command economy where the government have so much control. You often see a degree of authoritarianism.
Ashleigh, sorry to interrupt you here. But my colleague is telling me the police seem to be moving in toward the direction of Gezi Park at this point. We don't know if they're heading into the park themselves or down towards the side of there. But there seems to be phases of this police operation.
But to go back to your point. Some say the cost of, this success, this breakaway economy. The government investment and infrastructure - hearing a lot of tear gas behind me. Ashleigh, sorry, I should probably let you pay more attention to these pictures because events are unfolding rapidly behind me.
BANFIELD: We are looking actually live right now.
WALSH: You can See the flashes are tear gas.
BANFIELD: Exactly. Watching live pictures with you.
WALSH: -- fire down the street to the side of Gezi Park.
BANFIELD: And I am not sure if you were able to catch the interview I was doing with Arwa Damon before we came to your live shot location. But she seems to be at least in some area of the receiving end of a lot of that volley. She also happens to be with a lot of protesters that were getting rather violent. I could see them picking up rocks, debris on the street and using them as sling shots to fire back at these officers. It's hard for our viewers to understand your perspective, Nick, as you look down on this scene as opposed to where Arwa is. But what we are seeing from this camera vantage point is, is a pretty strong force of a lot of artillery and vehicles. They have bulldozers. They have got armored vehicles. And they're moving en masse. Can you see what we are seeing?
WALSH: Yes, what you are seeing there is a column of police heading down. I was there yesterday. There is a road that heads on the far side of where I am standing down the other side of this square park, Gezi Park, where so many protesters are. It's obvious the police are moving down that. They have plenty of tear gas. You can see many shots fired in that direction.
But standard tactic we have seen from Turkish police is to saturate an area with this gas, forcing people out. Not much you can do when you're surrounded, even in a gas mask because you simply cannot see what surround you.
They're clearly moving down that road. And I think the broader strategy is to ensure the park is surrounded, if not perhaps even partly cleared, simply because the tear gas blows in with the prevailing wind and makes it pretty impossible to be inside there. But now we are seeing, I think it's fair to say, Ashleigh, another phase in this police operation. Moving down another road. Where the one closest to us where we are here, has been cleared in the last hour. They're moving to the far distance, furthest away, and moving down the other side of the park, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: All right, Nick, as we watch this - yes, as we watch these heavy vehicles moving in, it's hard to know what the strategy is, whether they're trying to give themselves cover as this a riot force tries to move in on the protesters or whether they're just trying to mobilize and show that they have a great deal more force than they did earlier. Again, it is tricky with the various camera angles without putting our crews in jeopardy. We can see the riot police now moving down the street I think you're talking about. Can you see it, Nick?
WALSH: Yes, we seem to be seeing these armored water cannon vehicles. They're called toma by the Turkish here. They're moving ahead. Police are using them as a form of cover to move down that particular road. I was there, about 11:00 last night.
Let's pause so you can hear the tear gas.
I was there around midnight last night. Many buses blocking that road. Unclear if they're still there. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bulldozers going in as well.
WALSH: Bulldozers, I understand now moving into that area as well. We have seen a large presence of bulldozers and trucks coming in behind to carry away the debris. It is obvious that -- the police strategy is to get these expanses of concrete free of debris as quickly as possible. Let's just pause so you can see the images here coming in, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: My gosh, that is an incredible force. I have been hearing those tear gas canisters going off all day, Nick. And I am curious, not to suggest - you'll know for a moment. But at least you may have been hearing the escalation and rhetoric from the government. Prime Minister Erdogan said they're terrorists. He said he'll have no part of this. He will not stand for it. What does that mean? Because right now, the death count is not high. Injury count is at about 5,000, but that's a moving target. Just how far is the prime minister prepared to go, Nick?
WALSH: He has shown very little signs himself of being conciliatory. And he left an apology to his deputy prime minister. Today as we saw riot police move around the protests he was standing in front of MPs, saying simply, this is a conspiracy against Turkey.
I think much of what he is criticized for is hard-line stance, his lack of compromise, the fact that he doesn't necessarily want to listen to the opinions of those who haven't voted for him. We are seeing quite a lot of tear gas now being used behind me. Some smoke emerging from behind the park.
Part of what he is criticized for, not listening to those who didn't vote for him. His statement have been very categorical. He's referred to those in the protests as being marginalists, extremists in some ways. You heard early on, one of his advisers, described them as "terrorists", hard to see how that balances.
I have to say, I have seen protesters, attacking police with fireworks, Molotov cocktails, rocks. That is a hard core minority. But the police response has been against the mass whole. There have been calm protesters, hundreds, thousands of them. They were the ones subjected to a volley of tear gas, about four, five hours ago which started this evening's clashes.
I think many, perhaps the reason why the U.S. has expressed concern about how this falls out, is to see those peaceful protesters subjected to that kind of police force.
BANFIELD: Hey, Nick. We're just watching that shot. As you said it, that they were throwing Molotov cocktails and fireworks at the police. We could see all the fireworks going off.
I know from your perspective, as the it gets darker, it's trickier to make out strategy. But our Arwa Damon is down in the midst of that right now.
Arwa, you had your fair share of struggles to get through this broadcast in just the last 31 minutes. But I just -- I'm not sure you can see what we are seeing, Arwa, but we saw a riot squad. It looked like under the cover of one of the water cannon vehicles, starting to progress down a street.
Are you able to see that and what effect if any has that had on the group of protesters?
DAMON: (INAUDIBLE) wearing mask protection as they come against this. But this has only been a development in the last few minutes. The riot police (INAUDIBLE). You can see the smoke also corresponding to the canisters. I am coming to you live. The situation here right now happening all around us.
BANFIELD: These are remarkable scenes you are seeing Arwa Damon and her crew cover.
Go ahead, Arwa.
BANFIELD: Arwa is having a difficult time hearing us as well, because she's an area that is extraordinarily loud. Clearly, she has a gas mask on. Not optimal conditions for a reporter. She is doing a masterful job at bringing these images to you live and reporting from ground level at great risk to herself, and I remind you, the CNN crew that is with her as well.
It is extraordinary, as you peer down that street, into what seems like endless cloud of tear gas that Arwa has been in the middle of that. I'm not sure if it looks as though the desired effect has perhaps been struck by these -- these riot police as many of those who are around Arwa, just moments ago, seemed to have cleared away, although you can see canisters rolling in.
You can see our crew -- go ahead, Arwa. No, I think she is under cover. Arwa has got cover.
Nick, I'm not sure if you are watching the shot we are watching as well. Down at Arwa's street level. This is very difficult for her to cover and very difficult for our crew to shoot.
BANFIELD: But I'm not sure the perspective -- is this the street that they're advancing on?
WALSH: That seems to be the case, yes, I can vaguely recognize it from where I was last night. I think you are seeing the trees there, the line in the park, and then, of course, the police moving down that -- that to the left-hand side. There is a row of quiet high-rise buildings and a hotel as well. That heads down towards one of the main brand hotels down the street.
What we are hearing behind me is a lot of tear gas being fired. And also -- a real move to clear this square of debris as quickly as possible. I can't see because the park is obscuring precisely where this large column of police is advancing. But we are seeing some police, near the road, closest to us, that goes down the road towards Gezi Park. They are firing tear gas down the road, presumably two remnants of the protests as well, a substantial move by police, another phase to move down both sides of the park.
It's a square in which all the tents are encamped. There are trees in there. Many people still inside. Dense conditions there, certainly. Just pause so you can hear some of the tear gas.
BANFIELD: We are seeing it go off live, as well as the fireworks.
WALSH: Being fired.
BANFIELD: Nick, it seems so disorganized from at least our perspective.
And I know it's night fall and it's harder to see.
But do we get any sense of strategy, of organization, on the part of either the protesters at this point, or the responding riot police?
WALSH: We have seen very little strategy on the whole from the protesters since this began, partly down to a lack of one figurehead leader in some way that had coherent demand at one point. But, certainly, the protest inside Gezi Park is in many ways utopian, very alternative in its ideology.
The police, we have been questioning throughout the day what is their strategy? They have had about 18 hours to effect clearing this area. They have, in fact, allowed the protest to grow significantly in number by the evening. Then, they sent in the tear gas now. And they appear at night to be affecting this plan to clear away barricades.
So, many will question quite why it has taken so long? Why they need to see more people come in? But we are still hearing, I am hearing small explosions, it could be tear gas. It could be fireworks really behind me.
But a lot of these flashing lights you are seeing, the bulldozers, the pickup trucks being brought in to take away the debris. The pickup trucks being brought in to take away the debris. We can't see what is on the other side of Gezi Park at the moment. I am seeing what looks like police firing tear gas in the general direction down the road near Gezi Park, and much of that wafting into Gezi Park as well. The wind here a real issue, if it's against you. Everything blows into your face, making it relevant, whether the police fire tear gas at you or not, is to incapacitate a whole area.
Of course, life must be difficult inside Gezi Park right now, as you've been seeing from the pictures, Arwa has been showing.
But that bid to push protesters, it seems, down the road that runs to the right, the far side of where we are standing of Gezi Park. As you head down there last night there were buses blocking the way. As you move down towards some of the brand hotels there, that are in this upscale part of Istanbul. It must be a -- for those facing the police advance, in many ways, a terrifying situation, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: I think we're just sort of lucky to have a change of wind during this hour where you have been able to report without a gas mask. I have seen you on since 5:00 this morning with the gas mask and battling against those clouds of tear gas that have pervaded that entire area. On the left-hand side of your screen, you can see just a few riot police that have been firing their tear gas cannons, indiscriminately it seems. Maybe strategy we don't see. And the wider shot of the park, Taksim Square. And, you know, from above, it doesn't look as dire as it does from street view.
Listen, Nick, there does not seem to be any chance -- that these kinds of factions while this is ongoing could have what is supposed to be scheduled as a meeting tomorrow. Protesters are supposed to be meeting in some fashion, with the government. I am assuming that meeting would have been struck before this all devolved.
WALSH: Well, certainly. You are asking -- is this intended to improve negotiating position of Erdogan. Well, of course, what kind of negotiation can actually take in good faith when you see the police with this level of force against the protesters, who are supposed to be negotiating their future?
I think many will consider any negotiations that take place tomorrow as being entirely under Prime Minister Erdogan's terms if indeed talks do happen. You've got to ask what is left to talk about here.
But the protesters, their demands, at times incoherent as they were, centered around a number of things -- an end to police brutality, an end to use of tear gas, and secure future of Gezi Park and those trees which you've have seen police moving around at this park.
So the violence tonight, of course, against the protestors' demand. They also wanted to see people released from the tension and not investigated. That was a week ago. We don't know who has been arrested tonight. Why, what the toll of that has been.
But certainly, it's a poor environment for negotiation. If anything in good faith could possibly take place at all. I am sure there are protesters saying, "Look, there is no point attending the talks. We have nothing to gain. They moved against us" -- Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: A serious borders that are of concern, when you see a country like Turkey, a staunch ally of America, butted right up next against Syria, and Iraq, and Georgia. These are critical times to see a country having this kind of strife.
Nick, I'm going to give you a brief break. But we are continuing to watch this.
We are also going to check in with our Arwa Damon. She's had a very tough go this hour, trying to battle not only the tear gas but also, protesters who encroached very close onto her location. And, of course, where protesters are, the response from the riot police also follows.
So, it's been a tenuous time for Arwa. She is safe. We have ensured that she and her crew take the utmost measures to remain safe, and still, they're able o report this remarkable live story for you. We're back right after this.
BANFIELD: Welcome back to CNN's continuing live coverage of a breaking situation in Istanbul, Turkey. You can see the pictures on your left lit up, fire in the square. This is Taksim Square in Istanbul. On your right, a wider shot. What you can't see are the troops that have amassed to try to quash protest that have been going on for weeks but have intensified over the last 18 hours. There have been columns of riot police moving in, pushing down the barricades that protesters have set up.
The volleys back and forth of tear gas have been choking. In fact, our own Arwa Damon who is on street level just within the last 40 minutes was caught up in what seem to be a very instant escalation, a dangerous escalation in which our crew and our Arwa had to seek shelter. Have a look at how that developed live.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMON: Rallying around one another as well. We see a lot them pouring white liquid into each other's eyes. That's actually an anti- acid that (INAUDIBLE).
Remember, the argument had promised to allow the demonstration itself continuing while riot police have not entered the park itself. The tear gas is now landing inside the park, let's move around here forward. And straight (INAUDIBLE) is where those clashes were taken, between the demonstrators and the riot police.
The riot police managed to come forward. Somehow, the demonstrators are trying to push their way forward right now. (INAUDIBLE) canisters and lob them right back. They've been screaming be careful to one another, only you've seen it's happening also, you know that people that are trying to harm those who are inside the camp down, because it (INAUDIBLE) here.
You can see in front of our cameras right now are some of the demonstrators are trying to collect different stones (INAUDIBLE) --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) America doing this.
DAMON: (INAUDIBLE) trying to lob the rocks back towards the riot police advancing on the street below, but angry, really (INAUDIBLE) right now inside Gezi Park itself as once again the protesters here.
You see unfolding right there, they're screaming for doctors to help that man (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: This has been a remarkable day, not only for those who live in Turkey, live in Istanbul, but for those also who have watched as the protest that never seem to have the kind of momentum to end up this way ended up this way.
And our Arwa Damon is now live with us on the phone. Arwa, we've been watching as your location became increasingly dangerous and we saw that man injured live during your report. Do you know anything more at this stage about death or injury? And what we've seen play out on the screen, has it been dire as it appears?
DAMON (via telephone): It really has been dire as it appears. I do not have any concrete information right now in terms of casualties. It's impossible to determine from our vantage point.
Now, since that last report, we moved to the other side of the park where there is another road that the demonstrators were occupying, and that was in the last few minutes also coming incredibly intense tear gas bombardment, more tear gas canisters falling in the park itself where actually seeking refuge with a number of demonstrators inside one of the hotels that opened their doors to everybody. They have gotten everyone inside that they possibly can. They're not letting anyone back out and the riot police actually drove the armored vehicles down the street, clearing out all of the barricades from the side streets that run right next to Gezi Park.
People incredibly tense. There are a few doctors inside trying to calm everybody down. They have first aid inside peering underneath the curtains of the hotels windows, right now trying to determine what is happening outside. I can see Gezi Park from where I am. It's actually just across the street, and it does seem like it has a slightly calmed down right now, not the tear gas being fired, at least not from here. The police vehicles did drove down the road and push the barricades out of the way.
It seems as if their intent was to try to clear the side streets around Gezi Park, again, not entering the park itself but most certainly coming under a very, very intense bombardment of tear gas and water cannons in some cases.
BANFIELD: And that tear gas we watched you report all throughout the day, Arwa, and I think we have an isolated quick little clip. I just wanted to show our viewers what Arwa had to, you know, what he's coped with and what she's put with to try to bring this story live from street level amidst those protesters.
And in those ominous clouds of tear gas -- I just want you to watch as Arwa was reporting earlier amidst that tear gas and what it was like for her. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMON: We're right now in the very front of the park. You can see people trying to help us out because of the tear gas. The entire front part of the park now has been cleared out because of what was just fired in.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BANFIELD: That's one remarkable reporter. They are spraying peppermint into her eyes to continue despite the tear gas.
We are live on CNN covering this. We are back right after this break.
BANFIELD: Welcome back to our continuing coverage on CNN, as we watch what's happening in Turkey. You're seeing left on your screen, you can see just a few riot police to the left of one of their larger vehicles.
Often those vehicles are considered water cannon vehicles. On the right hand of your screen, the fire still burning in Taksim Square, where closed to 19 hours now, the tear gas has flowed, the clouds have been intoxicating.
Reporters have struggled to speak against the choking gases and maybe more importantly, the 10,000 protesters or so who had amassed there throughout the day have been playing a cat and mouse game it seems with the riot place. The prime minister of that country saying he will have none of this, trying with an iron fist to stop what's happening but not having much success.
We are continuing to watch what's happening both at street level and with our sky cameras. We're going to continue this coverage handing it over to "A.C. 360" and Anderson Cooper coming up, right after the break.
I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Thanks for watching.