Istanbul, (Hürriyet Daily News)
[Riot police entered the Taksim Square for the first time in more than a week. AA photo ]
Riot police used tear gas and pressurized water to enter Taksim Square around 7.30 a.m. today, where Gezi Park protests have been continuing for two weeks.
It was the first time the police entered the square since they retreated from the iconic venue on June 1.
The Governor’s Office said the operation only aimed to “clear the banners and flags on the Atatürk statue and the AKM cultural center” and no operation was planned for the Gezi Park.
Police used tear gas and pressurized water against a handful of protesters clashing with the police, while the majority of the protesters retreated to Gezi Park and asked everybody to remain calm.
Live television footage showed a few Molotov cocktails being thrown at police officers. The Gezi Park protesters were quick to put distance between them and the clashers, saying on Twitter that they had never seen those who threw the Molotov cocktails in the two-week-long demonstrations.
Clashes between police and small groups of protesters continue in streets and alleys around Taksim Square. Gezi Park is relatively calm aside from the effects of the tear gas generously used in the square. Police also used tear gas and pressurized water against groups trying to enter the square.
Some protestors were seen talking to the police in an attempt to convince them not to use tear gas, while also trying to calm their fellow protestors.
The banners and flags hanging on the AKM cultural center and the Atatürk statue were removed by the police. Only a Turkish flag and an Atatürk poster remained on the AKM.
In a written statement, the Governor’s Office said the operation aimed only to remove the banners and flags and no intervention was planned for Gezi Park and the tents inside.
Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu wrote on his Twitter account that they would “never touch Gezi Park and the protesters.”
“I ask you to calmly wait where you are without any provocations,” Mutlu wrote.
At least two injured
[Photo by Daily News reporter Erdem Arda Güneş]
At least two people have been wounded so far in the clashes, according to Hürriyet Daily News sources.
One of the injured was unconscious, possibly passed out. Police have continued using gas in the Sıraselviler, Tarlabaşı and Elmadağ sections of Taksim. One of the protesters told the Daily News that the police had aimed tear gas at his face, and when he turned around the run away, the gas capsule hit him in the leg.
Despite constant announcements by police forces warning Gezi Park crowds to remain in the park, protesters are currently trying to approach the clashes in a move to show support and solidarity with those under police intervention.
Protesters say marginal protesters ‘undercover cops’
Some protesters claimed police used plastic bullets on them, while no confirmation has yet been made on the issue.
A group of protesters attempted to build a buffer zone between the police and the clashing crowds to prevent either side from violence. An unidentified protester threw a Molotov cocktail at the buffer zone, however, a large number of protesters at the site claimed the Molotov-throwing protester was in fact an undercover cop.
Similar claims of undercover policemen inciting violence disguised as protesters have been surfacing all morning, with social media posts heavily accusing the government of attempting to delegitimize the protests.