Turkish police fire tear gas at Istanbul protesters, dozens arrested

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Turkish riot police officers detain CNN International correspondent Ivan Watson (Center L) near Taksim square on May 31, 2014, as the police blocked access to the square during the one year anniversary of the Gezi park and Taksim square demonstrations. (Photo: AFP - Bulent Kilic)

Published Saturday, May 31, 2014

Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon at hundreds of people in Istanbul and Ankara Saturday as demonstrations marking a year since deadly anti-government protests erupted in fresh violence.

Police clashed with protesters near Istanbul's iconic Taksim Square, scene of last year's unrest that claimed eight lives and left thousands injured, an AFP reporter on the ground said.

"Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance," the demonstrators shouted.

Riot police also deployed tear gas and water cannon to disperse some 1,000 people in the capital Ankara, who hurled fireworks.

In the run-up to the anniversary, Turkey's prime minister had warned authorities would do "whatever is necessary" to curb protest.

"I am calling on all my people. Do not be deceived. This is not an environmentalist campaign. There is no sincerity here," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told thousands of supporters at an Istanbul rally.

"If you go there, our security forces have received clear-cut instructions and will do whatever is necessary from A to Z," said the premier.

"You will not be able to take to (Taksim) like you did last year because you are obliged to abide by the laws... If you do not, the state will do whatever is necessary for its security," he warned.

Security was tight around Taksim Square and other points in Istanbul, with some 25,000 police deployed, streets to the square blocked and public transport curtailed.

Pressure on the international media was also high amid a tense climate around Taksim. Police briefly detained a CNN team in the middle of a live report in the square.

"Turkish police released CNN team after half an hour. Officer apologized for another officer who kneed me while I was being detained," CNN's Ivan Watson wrote on Twitter.

Authorities said 65 people had already been arrested.

Last year, what started as a small campaign to save the nearby Gezi Park from the bulldozers eventually drew an estimated three million protesters in an outpouring of anger at the perceived authoritarian tendencies of Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government.

Eight people died and thousands were injured in the ensuing violence as police launched a brutal crackdown, frequently employing tear gas and water cannon.

(AFP)

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