Violence surged around Istanbul’s Taksim Square overnight Sunday as police vehicles cleared the area in preparation for a response rally set to be held Sunday by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AK Party.
“We have our Istanbul rally tomorrow. I say it clearly: Taksim Square must be evacuated, otherwise this country’s security forces know how to evacuate it,” Erdogan told supporters at a rally in Ankara on Saturday, according to Reuters.
The continued unrest comes after the prime minister told protesters at Thursday’s talks he would put on hold plans to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks in Gezi Park until a court rules on the issue.
Within an hour of Erdogan’s warning Saturday to rioters that security forces “know how to clear” the area, water cannons were fired to evict protesters from the park. Armored police cars, fire trucks and sanitation vehicles were brought in to clear the remaining tents, debris, and barricades.
Lines of police backed by armored vehicles sealed off Taksim Square as officers stormed the adjoining Gezi Park.
Demonstrators were held back on the outskirts of the park, with water cannons firing sporadically to keep anyone from re-entering the area. Battles involving tear gas and water cannons were also taking place on side streets.