Protests Have Erupted Over Policies Of Turkish Prime Minister

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thousands of nervous New Yorkers have been keeping an eye on violence flaring in Turkey, with worries mounting about their friends and family.

One man told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello that he cannot relax until his wife and daughter are back in New York City.

A computer keeps Shawn Wallack connected with his wife, Sevgi, who is in Turkey with their daughter, Lena, visiting family at a tense time.

“It can still get out of control in a minute, especially if the police are there,” Sevgi Wallack said in a Skype call with her husband.

Turkish police are using water cannons and tear gas in a four-day battle with protesters. These are the largest clashes in a decade against conservative Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan, amid concerns that he will expand the role of Islam in Turkish society.

“They think they can do whatever they want,” Sevgi Wallack said. “They’re banning alcohol purchase after 10 p.m., which has never happened in Turkey before.”

“Many people worry for sure that, whether Turkey will go the way of Iran, for example,” added Shawn Wallack.

There are thousands of Turks in the Tri-State Area, including a cluster in Sunnyside, Queens, where delis are filled with Turkish delights. Resident Baris Izgordu said worrying about his family outside Istanbul is taking a toll.

“For the last few days, basically, I didn’t even sleep, like two three hours at the most, because I’ve been trying to follow everything from the social media network, and Twitter, Facebook YouTube,” Izgordu said.

This weekend, Izgordu joined a protest in Lower Manhattan, where Turks from up and down the East Coast demanded that Prime Minister Erdoğan resign.

Meanwhile, back at his home on the Upper West Side, Shawn Wallack has been nervously counting the days until his wife returns.

“While she anticipates that there won’t be a problem, I do worry a bit,” Wallack said, adding that he will feel better only “when she’s here; when my daughter is in my arms.”

Wallack said his little girl banged on a pot with as spoon at a peaceful protest in Turkey this weekend.

The demonstrations have spread to more than 60 cities across Turkey. The U.S. State Department has warned Americans traveling to Turkey to be very careful.

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