x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Turkish riot police tear gas Taksim Square protest

Dozens of Turkish riot police this morning moved into Istanbul's Taksim Square, firing tear gas and water cannon into the heart of the anti-government protests.

Turkish riot police kick a tear gas canister during clashes with protesters in Ankara, Turkey. This morning similar scenes are reported in Taksim Square. AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda
Turkish riot police kick a tear gas canister during clashes with protesters in Ankara, Turkey. This morning similar scenes are reported in Taksim Square. AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

Hundreds of riot police today retook control of Istanbul's Taksim Square, firing tear gas and water cannon at anti-government demonstrators who threw back molotov cocktails and fireworks.

The police said they wanted to remove the barricades erected around the square, the epicentre of 12 days of nationwide demonstrations, but would not force out the hundreds of protesters who have been camping out in the adjoining Gezi Park.

Police had stayed away from Taksim after officers pulled out of the area over a week ago and protesters were caught off-guard by their return.

The police action came just hours after the government said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who protesters see as increasingly authoritarian, would meet with some of the protest leaders on Wednesday.

"Our intention is to remove the signs and banners at the site. We have no other goal," said Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu on Twitter.

"We will not touch Gezi Park and Taksim, we will absolutely not touch you," he added, urging demonstrators to stay away from troublemakers.

Burak Arat, 24, said he was sleeping in Gezi Park when police moved in nearby. "We will fight. We want freedom. We are freedom fighters," the tourism student told AFP as he made his way to the square where burst of tear gas were ringing out.