Turkish riot police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets in day-long clashes that lasted into the early hours Wednesday.
Riot police have fired volleys of tear gas as thousands of protesters are trying to reclaim Taksim after being forced out in fierce clashes with law enforcement. Thick smoke blankets the square.
Turkish riot police are driving thousands into narrow side streets, Reuters report citing witnesses, with water cannon vehicles advanced across the square. Struggling to disperse the crowd, riot police water- cannoned a disabled protester who was unable to leave Taksim square.
Prior to that, protesters, mocking and calling for police to leave, confronted the forces.
Some of protesters are burning colorful flares and fireworks. Fire could be seen in a few locations across the square with the chaos raging at the cradle of the two-week long anti-government protest.
Chanting slogans and launching fireworks in defiance, tens of thousands eventually fled the square, according to witnesses, to Gezi Park, where tear gas canisters have also been fired. However, shortly after, Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said Taksim Square has been ‘cleansed’, riot police and protesters returned to Taksim with more tear gas and water cannon on site.
“We will continue our measures in an unremitting manner, whether day or night, until marginal elements are cleared and the square is open to the people,” he said in a televised announcement.
Meanwhile, Mutlu has said police will continue operations in Taksim Square, day and night, until it is cleared, Reuters reported.
Earlier Tuesday, police and protesters clashed over a new barrier inside the square.
The crisis has left Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan looking vulnerable for the first time in his decade in power and has threatened to tarnish the international image of Turkey, a Muslim majority country with a strongly secular tradition, a burgeoning economy and close ties with the United States.
Throughout the protests, Erdogan has maintained a defiant tone, insisting he would not be bowed by what he described as a vocal minority. On Tuesday, as police clashed with protesters in Taksim, he insisted again that the unrest was part of a conspiracy against his government.
The demonstrators, he said, ” are being used by some financial institutions, the interest rate lobby and media groups to (harm) Turkey’s economy and (scare away) investments.”
A peaceful demonstration against the park’s redevelopment that began more than two weeks ago has grown into the biggest test of Erdogan’s authority, sparked by outrage over a violent police crackdown on May 31 against a peaceful sit-in in the park.
The unrest has spread to 78 cities across the country, with protesters championing their objections to what they say is the prime minister’s increasingly authoritarian style and his perceived attempts to impose a religious and conservative lifestyle on a country with secular laws – charges he rejects.
Four people have been killed, including a policeman, and about 5,000 have been treated for injuries or the effects of tear gas, according to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation.
Thousands of police moved in early Tuesday, pushing past improvised barricades set up by the protesters who have swarmed through the massive square and park in the tens of thousands for the past 12 days.
Police fired repeated rounds of tear gas that rose in stinging plumes of acrid smoke from the square in running battles with groups of protesters hurling fireworks, bottles, rocks and firebombs in a cat-and-mouse game that lasted through the day and into the night.
Turkey Unrest:Police targeting even wheelchair user with water cannon
As violence erupted in Turkey’s Taksim Square Tuesday, riot police used tear gas and doused dozens with water cannons. Though the brutal tactics used to subdue demonstrators are shocking in their own right, a video of one particular man apparently being targeted by Turkish police may be among the most striking footage of the Taksim Square protests.
In the video, posted on YouTube by ITV News, a man in a wheelchair appears to be the direct target of water cannon fire as he is doused with the heavy spray.