Turkish riot police fired water cannon and teargas at hundreds of protesters in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Tuesday (June 11), entering the square for the first time since demonstrations against plans to develop a park there turned violent.
The police move came after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan agreed to meet protest leaders, whose peaceful demonstrations two weeks ago spiralled into protests against his government in which three people have been killed and about 5,000 hurt.
Police removed protesters' banners from a building overlooking the square and the local governor said police had no intention of breaking up the protest in adjoining Gezi Park.
Crowd control vehicles fired water cannon against groups of protesters who threw stones, fireworks and petrol bombs at the police. Nearby, hundreds more protesters, wearing face masks to protect against the effects of teargas, gathered on steps leading from the square to the park.
Police appealed to the demonstrators not to attack.
The protests have shaken the predominantly Muslim country's image as a stable democracy in a turbulent region and as a vibrant emerging market for investors.
For the last ten days the protesters have controlled a large area around the square, with approach roads barricaded by masonry, paving stones and steel rods. Police had withdrawn completely from the area and kept water cannon vehicles hundreds of metres away by the side of the Bosphorus strait.
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