(WASHINGTON) -- The White House on Monday called on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to use restraint in dealing with growing demonstrations against new social restrictions imposed by his government.
What began as a small protest about the redevelopment of a park in Istanbul last Friday has spread throughout Turkey about larger grievances, with thousands taking to the streets to oppose what they say is a dialing back of rights in the secular Muslim country.
Hundreds have been arrested and injured in clashes with police, who the Obama administration claims have been too fierce with their use of water cannons and tear gas to quell the demonstrations.
Secretary of State John Kerry said that while both sides in the civil unrest should "avoid any provocations or violence," the Turkish prime minister should limit "excessive use of force by police."
Washington and Ankara are close allies but Kerry was mindful about how an admonition from the White House might be perceived, adding, "We don’t say these things to interfere in another country’s choices or events, but we say these things to reaffirm what we believe are universal principles and values that are essential to the practice of democracy."
One of the main issues Turks are up in arms about is the tighter restriction put on alcohol sales in the country.
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