Turkish protesters battle riot police at Istanbul park

Riot police fired water cannons and tear gas as they drove protesters out of Istanbul`s Taksim Square.

Updated: Jun 16, 2013, 12:23 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Ankara: In what seems to be worst night of unrest in Turkey protests, demonstrators defied the water cannons fired by riot police and continued to protest over Gezi Park.

Police had succeeded to chase the protesters away from Istanbul`s Taksim Square and neighboring Gezi Park, after firing tear gas and water cannons but protesters later erected barricades across nearby streets and lit bonfires, reported the BBC.

Many in Ankara took to streets for exhibiting support over the protests.

Police action was seen after the PM Erdogan warned that security forces "know how to clear" the area.

Within a half-hour, the sweep by white-helmeted riot police had emptied the park, leaving a series of colorful, abandoned tents behind. Bulldozers moved in afterward, scooping up debris as crews of workmen in hard hats and fluorescent yellow vests tore down the tents.
Protesters put up little physical resistance, even as plain-clothes police shoved many of them to drive them from the park.

For over two weeks, protesters had defied Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan`s warnings to vacate the area. A brutal police intervention on May 31 against those protesting plans to redevelop the square and the park had sparked the biggest anti-government protests in Turkey in decades and dented Erdogan`s international reputation.

White smoke billowed skyward as a phalanx of white-helmeted riot police marched inside the park on Saturday. They tore down protesters` banners, toppled a communal food stall, and sprayed tear gas over the tents — urging those inside to pull out.

Protesters carried someone away on a stretcher.

According to NTV television, before entering the park police shouted to the protesters: "This is an illegal act, this is our last warning to you Evacuate."

In a show of power before thousands of flag-waving party faithful, Erdogan had earlier threatened protesters in a boisterous speech in Sincan, a suburb of the capital Ankara, that is a stronghold of his Justice and Development Party.

Erdogan warned protesters to cheers from the crowd: "I say this very clearly: either Taksim Square is cleared, or if it isn`t cleared then the security forces of this country will know how to clear it."
The protests that were sparked after the violence police action on May 31 sparked a much broader expression of discontent about Erdogan`s government, and what many say is his increasingly authoritarian decision-making.

The anger has been fanned because riot police have at times used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse mostly peaceful protesters. Five people, including a police officer, have died and thousands of people have been injured, denting Erdogan`s international reputation.

With Agency Inputs