Police use tear gas on Turkish demonstrators

Riot police disperse crowds marking anniversary of anti-government protests in Ankara, Istanbul and other cities.

    Police use tear gas on Turkish demonstrators
    Turkish PM Erdogan warned activists to keep away from Taksim Square [AFP]

    Turkish police have used tear-gas and water cannon in Istanbul, the capital Ankara and other cities to disperse protesters seeking to mark the first anniversary of mass anti-government demonstrations.

    Authorities closed roads and stopped public transport on Saturday to block access to Istanbul's Taksim Square and adjoining Gezi Park, the focal point of last year's rallies.

    Police lines used tear-gas and water cannon to hold back protesters, who had hoped to read a statement at Taksim Square and lay flowers at the park to commemorate the deaths of at least six people in protests staged against the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister.

    Protesters chanted "Resign, murderer AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party]" and "Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance" before police forced crowds to retreat.

    At least 120 people were arrested, Istanbul's police chief Selami Altinok said on Saturday.

    Mass dissent

    A senior CNN correspondent was taken into custody by Turkish police while he was reporting live for his network, saying that he was kicked in the process. Ivan Watson was released later that day.

    Earlier on Saturday, authorities closed roads and public transport to block access to Taksim. At least 25,000 officers as well as dozens of water cannon trucks and armoured vehicles were deployed to Gezi Park.

    Police also broke up protests in Ankara, the southern city of Adana, the central city of Eskisehir and others, Turkish media reports said.

    In neighbourhoods across Istanbul, residents opened their windows and banged pots and pans, a traditional form of dissent employed in anti-government protests.

    What began last May as a peaceful demonstration against plans to redevelop Gezi Park, a part of Istanbul's Taksim Square, spiralled into massive protests spread around the country against Erdogan that resulted in brutal police retaliation.

    Erdogan's warning

    The prime minister warned the public on Friday to keep away from the square, saying authorities were under strict orders to prevent protests.

    "I am calling on my people: don't fall for this trap. This is not an innocent environmental action,'' Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul.

    "If you go there, our security forces are under strict orders, they will do whatever is necessary from A to Z.”

    Erdogan, whose Justice and Development Party came out victorious from local elections on March 30, accuses opponents of taking to the streets to push their demands.

    In return, protesters complain of authoritarianism as Erdogan, a religious conservative who dominates the Turkish political scene, marked a decade in office.


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