Turkish riot police enter Taksim Square | News | DW | 11.06.2013
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Turkish riot police enter Taksim Square

Riot police have entered Istanbul's Taksim Square firing tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters. The action comes after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to meet with the demonstrators on Wednesday.

Turkish riot police firing tear gas forced through barricades set up by demonstrators on Istanbul's Taksim Square on Tuesday morning.

Many protestors fled into Gezi Park, next to the square, where demonstrators have been camping since a police crackdown on May 31 on environmentalists.

The police also used water cannon, with one report that rubber bullets had been fired. Some activists threw fireworks, incendiary devices and stones.

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Turkish police clear Taksim Square

Officers removed banners that had been hung from a building overlooking the square. The AP news agency reported that police replaced these with a large Turkish flag and a banner with a picture of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish state.

Central Istanbul has been a focal point for protests and the scene of violent clashes between police and protesters over the past week-and-a-half.

In Ankara on Monday night, police also fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protestors who defied Erdogan's threat that they would "pay a price" for their challenge to his Islamic-rooted government's decade-long rule.

Protest widened

Turkey's anti-government protests began on May 31 after a police crackdown on an environmentalist protest in Gezi Park next to the square. Police were widely criticized as being heavy-handed.

Three people have so far died in the clashes; one a policeman and the two others demonstrators. Some 5,000 people have been injured in the violence.

The protest over plans to develop Gezi Park into a Ottoman-styled building later spiralled into wider demonstrations across the country in opposition to Erdogan's style of government.

Opponents of Erdogan's Islamic-leaning government claim that it is too authoritarian and Islamic-leaning, posing a threat to the country's secular foundations. These were put in place by Ataturk almost 90 years ago after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

While a devout Muslim himself, Erdogan claims that he is committed to secularism and denies claims that he is ruling in an autocratic manner.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc announced on Monday - after a cabinet meeting - that Erdogan had agreed to meet protesters. However, he also implied that the protests in the square and park would be over by the weekend.

rc/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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