Turkish police move into Taksim Square

2013-06-11 10:09
Riot policemen take cover behind their shields amid tear gas smoke during clashes in Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey. (Kostas Tsironis, AP)

Riot policemen take cover behind their shields amid tear gas smoke during clashes in Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey. (Kostas Tsironis, AP)

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Istanbul - Police used water cannon and tear gas on Tuesday as they moved into Istanbul's Taksim Square, where two weeks of protests have been held, as some demonstrators threw rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Authorities used construction machinery to clear barricades erected by the protesters around the central square as police entered it for the first time since 1 June after a crackdown on the demonstrations drew international condemnation.

The governor of Istanbul, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, wrote on Twitter that the purpose of the operation was only to remove banners from a monument to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey's first president, and the Ataturk Cultural Centre.

Police would not move into Gezi Park, where thousands of demonstrators have been camped, he said while asking the demonstrators to remain calm and not provoke police.

Banners were removed and a Turkish flag and a picture of Ataturk were hung instead at the cultural centre.

At least two people were hurt in the operation, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.

The protests began over Gezi Park on the edge of the square, where the demonstrators were trying to prevent a development project, but they expanded across the country and developed an anti-government tone as protesters have accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of having an authoritarian style of leadership and seeking to impose Islamic values on a secular country.

Three people have been killed in the protests.

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