'No one will get away with it': Turkish PM issues protest threat as riot police storm Taksim Square

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Officers fire tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters just hours after the government said it would meet with protest leaders

Hundreds of Turkish police in riot gear breached barricades to force their way into Istanbul's central Taksim Square and fired tear gas at protesters in an attempt to take back control of the makeshift camp, as the prime minister warned "no one will get away with it".

Speaking in Ankara as the police operation unfolded in Istanbul,  Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged demonstrators to leave the square and insisted the protests were part of a conspiracy against the government.

"To those who ... are at Taksim and elsewhere taking part in the demonstrations with sincere feelings: I call on you to leave those places and to end these incidents and I send you my love. But for those who want to continue with the incidents I say: 'It's over.' As of now we have no tolerance for them," Mr Erdogan said. 

"Not only will we end the actions, we will be at the necks of the provocateurs and terrorists and no one will get away with it," he added.

"I want everyone there to see the big picture, to understand the game that is being played and I especially invite them to evacuate (Taksim and Gezi Park). I expect that of them as their prime minister.

"A comprehensive attack against Turkey has been carried out," Mr Erdogan told parliamentary group meeting of his AK Party.

He added: "The increase in interest rates, the fall in the stock markets, the deterioration in the investment environment, the intimidation of investors - the efforts to distort Turkey's image have been put in place as a systematic project."

Police fired rubber bullets at protesters in Taksim Square, prompting many to flee the square into adjoining Gezi Park, where some have been camping. There were running battles at one edge of the square between police and some groups of protesters, who responded by throwing fireworks, firebombs and stones at a police water cannon.

Police made frequent announcements through loudspeakers, asking the group to stop attacking police, before then firing the tear gas. A water cannon was also used to douse another police vehicle that was set alight by a firebomb.

Officers in riot gear, backed by armoured vehicles and carrying shields gathered around the square before moving past barricades erected by protesters. They removed protesters' banners which had been hung from a building overlooking the square. Activists replaced a large Turkish flag and a banner with a picture of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the secular republic 89 years ago after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The latest police clampdown, on the 12th day of nationwide protests, comes after Mr Erdogan agreed to meet the protest organisers on Wednesday. Mr Erdogan is trying to reign in mass protests that have spread across Turkey – a large-scale show of anger against what many view as his government’s authoritarian policies. The protests gained momentum after police used tear gas against a peaceful sit-in in Istanbul’s Gezi Park on 31 May, objecting to the demolition of the park for a commercial development.

The Turkish Human Rights Foundation raised the number of deaths in more than a week of protests to four.

The protests grew into wider demonstrations against what many see as an authoritarian style of governing and Mr Erdogan's perceived attempts to impose a religious and conservative lifestyle in a country which has secular laws. Mr Erdogan, a devout Muslim, says he is committed to Turkey's secular laws and denies charges of autocracy.

He has escalated tensions by vowing to press ahead with the Taksim redevelopment plans, dismissing the protesters as fringe extremists and the protests as undemocratic plots to topple his government, which was elected with 50 per cent support.

He called major pro-government rallies in Ankara and Istanbul this weekend to show that he too can get large numbers of his supporters out on the street.

Huseyin Avni Mutlu, governor for Istanbul, said in a message issued on his Twitter account that the police operation was to dismount the banners hung on the building and at a monument on the square. He said people occupying the park at the square would not be touched.

Hundreds of protesters remain inside Gezi park, some still sleeping in tents, some eating breakfast handed out by volunteers. Those affected by tear gas at Taksim were helped to the medical station.

One protester said he joined the protest in Gezi Park because his cousin was beaten by police during the initial clampdown that sparked the wider protests.

"I'm here because I'm trying to defend my human rights," said the protester, who identified himself as Kenan Agac. "I'm not against police but his morning they came and threw tear gas."

"If they had warned us, this wouldn't have happened. This was not necessary."

The Turkish government announced after a Cabinet meeting that Mr Erdogan would meet some of the peaceful Gezi Park protesters but authorities would not allow "illegal" demonstrations to continue.

Before the police action, the protests appeared to be on the wane, with the smallest number of demonstrators in the past 12 days gathering in Taksim last night. The protesters occupying Gezi Park had remained.

Smaller protests occurred in Ankara, with about 5,000 people demonstrating. Police there have used water cannon and tear gas to break up demonstrations almost every night.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
A bartender serves beers
news
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
film
Life and Style
The finale at Dolce and Gabbana autumn/winter 2015
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager