Turkish police storm Taksim Square
Police seek to cleanse Istanbul centre of “signs of occupation”, as PM calls on Gezi Park protesters to disperse.
A defiant Turkish prime minister has called on protesters in Istanbul’s Gezi Park to disperse, hours after police moved into the adjoining Taksim Square, the cradle of ongoing demonstrations against his government.
Addressing party MPs on Tuesday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Gezi Park was “not a place to be occupied…there is a big game being played using Gezi Park as an excuse”.
“I want the Gezi Park protesters to understand that they are being used in a dirty game.”
Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught said police were moving towards the fringes of Gezi Park on Tuesday afternoon, hours after they entered Taksim Square to clean up signs of “occupation”.
They used teargas and watercannon as small groups of protesters replied with stones, petrol bombs and fireworks.
Taksim Square has been at the heart of anti-government demonstrations over the past two weeks.
The protests were intially triggered by opposition to government plans for redeveloping the Gezi Park adjoining the square, before escalating into nationwide demonstrations against the government..
The governor of Istanbul, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, said on Twitter that police were in Taksim Square only to remove banners and placards and the action was not targeting the removal of those people in the area. Banners from far-left groups were removed by the police.
A statement from Mutlu’s office said the aim of the invervention was to remove the banners of various groups in the square, which were making it look as though it was under “occupation”.
Al Jazeera’s Emre Rende in Istanbul said police claimed they were not targeting those who were there to resist the redevelopment of the park.
He said police were repeating this statement on loudhailers: “People in Gezi Park, we will not hurt you or intervene. We want to help you”, while telling protesters in Taksim Square to “stop throwing stones, stop throwing bottles and we will stop the teargas”.
In his speech, delivered to mis MPs, Erdogan said that three young people had “lost their lives” in the protests, and a policeman had been “martyred”.