Photo by Reuters
Protests marking the anniversary of widespread anti-government demonstrations in Turkey have taken a violent turn, with video emerging of police beating one activist with batons and firing water cannons and clouds of tear gas through the streets of Istanbul.The closure of Taksim Square's Gezi park and deployment of up to 25,000 riot police and 50 anti-riot water cannon vehicles throughout Istanbul and Ankara did not prevent activists taking to the streets in commemoration of the large-scale protests that swept the country last spring.
Multiple videos shows thick clouds of tear gas filling the streets leading to Taksim Square, where police in uniform and plainclothes clashed with protesters on Saturday.
Early Saturday, Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warned demonstrators to stay away from Istanbul's main square, saying that security forces will "do whatever is necessary" to curb protests at Gezi Park, according to the Associated Press."If you go there, our security forces are under strict orders, they will do whatever is necessary from A to Z," Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul. "You won't be able to go to Gezi like the last time. You have to obey the laws. If you don't, the state will do whatever is necessary."
Watch our Protests in Turkey dispatches here.On May 31, 2013, the government violently evicted of a group of environmentalists from Istanbul's Gezi Park as it was peacefully protesting the planned development of a shopping center and uprooting of trees in the area.Tens of thousands of people turned out at Taksim Square over the next two weeks to contest Erdogan's autocratic regime and demand greater democratic freedoms. They were met with a heavy-handed police response that drew widespread international condemnation.The Prime Minister of Turkey is in denial. Read more here.At least 12 people were killed and thousands more wounded during related demonstrations across the country in subsequent months.
Erdogan attempted to dissuade more violence on Saturday saying, "I am calling on my people: don't fall for this trap. This is not an innocent environmental action."Roads and train lines leading to and from Taksim Square were also been closed, according to local newspapers.In Photos: Police brutality in Turkey. See the pictures.Despite Erdogan's warnings, The Taksim Solidarity Platform and the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions both called for protests on the anniversary of the uprisings at Gezi Park.Riot police also clashed with demonstrators in the nation's capital, Ankara where water cannons were fired at activists who threw stones.Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields