Turkish police have fired tear gas and used water cannons in Istanbul to disperse thousands of anti - government protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Police on Saturday fired volleys of tear gas at protesters gathered at the city's landmark Taksim Square who were trying to enter the nearby Gezi Park, which has been cordoned off. Sporadic clashes between riot police and protesters stretched into the night. Earlier, Istanbul’s Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu, warned that the demonstration was illegal and participants would be dispersed. Organizers of the Saturday protest had planned to serve notice to authorities of a court decision that has annulled redevelopment plans for Taksim and to break through police cordons. An Istanbul court in June ruled against the redevelopment plans. The court's decision however, is not final and is expected to be appealed at a higher administrative court. Istanbul has been the epicenter of anti-government demonstrations since May 31, when the police broke up a sit-in staged at Taksim Square to protest against the redevelopment plan which involved the demolition of Gezi Park. The Turkish protesters said Gezi Park, which is a traditional gathering point for rallies and demonstrations as well as a popular tourist destination, is one of Istanbul’s last public green spaces. The protests soon spread to other cities across the country and turned into calls for the resignation of Erdogan, who had strongly backed the project. Erdogan opponents say he has become increasingly authoritarian since coming to power a decade ago. Several people have been killed in the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, whom Erdogan has described as foreign-backed extremists and terrorists. On June 24, Erdogan praised the “legendary heroism” of police forces in quelling anti-government protests.