ISTANBUL — Turkey’s deputy prime minister Monday raised the possibility that the army could be called in to help quell continuing civil unrest, the latest sign of the government’s impatience and officials’ hardening stance against a nearly 3-week-old protest movement.
The comments by the deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, followed days of intensifying street violence and signs of a broadening government crackdown that included the arrests of journalists as well as medical workers who have been treating protesters.
Demonstrations continued Monday in several Turkish cities, led by unions that had called for a nationwide strike. But Monday’s police sweep was less forceful than in recent days — with only scattered firing of tear gas and water cannons on pockets of protesters.
On Monday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s subordinates detailed new measures aimed at stopping the protests. The interior minister, Muammer Guler, said new regulations were being prepared to police social-media outlets, aimed at people who use Twitter or Facebook for “inciting people or coordinating and directing events that would cause social incidents or endanger material and physical public safety through manipulative, false news.”
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Arinc said that the “innocent protests had ended” and that the continuing demonstrations were illegal. If the police were unable to contain the unrest, he said, the army could be called in, according to the semiofficial Anatolian news agency.
Arinc’s comments suggest the government remains convinced of the military’s loyalty. Some protesters hope soldiers can be swayed, though soldiers did not intervene last week to protect some protesters trapped in a hotel and facing police.