By Nick Tattersall
Hundreds of Turkish riot police entered Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Tuesday, firing water cannon and teargas to scatter small numbers of protesters involved in demonstrations against plans to redevelop a park there, a Reuters witness said.
Police removed protesters’ banners which had been hung from a building overlooking the square and the local governor said the police had no intention of breaking up the protest in the adjoining Gezi Park.
“Our aim is to remove the signs and pictures on Ataturk statue and the Ataturk Cultural Centre. We have no other aim,” Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu wrote on Twitter. “Gezi Park and Taksim will not be touched.”
Hundreds of protesters with gas marks and plastic building site helmets gathered on steps leading from the square to the park, while police stationed water cannon vehicles around the square.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to meet leaders of the movement whose peaceful protests in Istanbul spiralled into a wave of demonstrations against his government in which three people have been killed and about 5,000 hurt.
Erdogan has repeatedly dismissed the protesters as “capulcular”, or riff-raff. But Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on Monday leaders of the Gezi Park Platform group had asked to meet him in an effort to end the unrest.