'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
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk