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Turkish policemen have a drink while guarding the entrance of Gezi Park near Taksim Square in Istanbul today.
Turkish policemen have a drink while guarding the entrance of Gezi Park near Taksim Square in Istanbul today.

Turkey unions prepare to strike over police crackdown

Turkish trade unions urges members to walk out of today in response to a widespread police crackdown against activists.

ISTANBUL // Turkish unions urged their members to walk out of work today and join demonstrations in response to a widespread police crackdown against activists following weeks of street protests.

However, the interior minister issued a stark warning to organisers of the one-day labour walkout that is aimed at maintaining pressure on prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

"I am calling on public workers and labourers to not participate in unlawful demonstrations — otherwise they will bear the legal consequences," Muammer Guler said. "Our police will be on duty as usual."

A day earlier, riot police cordoned off streets, set up roadblocks and fired tear gas and water cannons to prevent anti-government protesters from converging on Istanbul's central Taksim Square, while a few kilometres away Mr Erdogan addressed hundreds of thousands of government supporters.

Police maintained a lockdown on Taksim Square, the centre of more than two weeks of protests, by barring vehicles. However, as the work week began, authorities reopened a subway station at the square that had been shut yesterday when protesters tried to regroup.

Two of Turkey's largest labour movements urged members to walk off the job this afternoon and converge at the square.

In Ankara overnight, riot police fired tear gas and water cannons against thousands of protesters, the latest violence in a more than two-week stand-off that started as an environmentalist rally but later morphed into a broader protest against Erdogan's government.

Five people, including a policeman, have died and more than 5,000 have been injured, according to a Turkish rights group.

Riot police on Saturday emptied Istanbul's Gezi Park, next to Taksim Square, ending an 18-day sit-in by protesters against plans to redevelop the park.

Mr Erdogan, who long has been praised for shepherding Turkey to strong economic growth as many other world economies lagged, has seen his international reputation dented over his government's handling of the situation.

He has blamed the protests on a nebulous plot to destabilise his government and has repeatedly lashed out at reports in foreign media and chatter in social media about the situation.

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