(Reuters) - Thousands of people took to the streets of Istanbul overnight on Sunday, erecting barricades and starting bonfires, after riot police firing teargas and water cannon stormed a park at the center of two weeks of anti-government unrest.
Lines of police backed by armored vehicles sealed off Taksim Square in the center of the city as officers raided the adjoining Gezi Park late on Saturday, where protesters had been camped in a ramshackle settlement of tents.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had warned hours earlier that security forces would clear the square, the center of more than two weeks of fierce anti-government protests that spread to cities across the country, unless the demonstrators withdrew before a ruling party rally in Istanbul on Sunday.
"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," he told tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters at a rally in Ankara.
Protesters took to the streets in several neighborhoods across Istanbul following the raid on Gezi Park, ripping up metal fences, paving stones and advertising hoardings to build barricades and lighting bonfires of trash in the streets.
Some chanted, "Tayyip, resign."
Local television footage showed groups of demonstrators blocking a main highway to Ataturk airport on the western edge of the city, while to the east, several hundred walked towards a main bridge crossing the Bosphorus waterway towards Taksim.
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- Gezi Park
- Islamic government
- Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu
- Liberty Plaza
- Occupy Gezi
- Occupy Wall Street
- Ottoman-era barracks
- Peaceful Protest
- Prime Minister Erdogan
- Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
- Taksim Solidarity
- Taksim Square
- Tear Gas
- Turkish Consulate
- Union Square
- Zuccotti Park
- brutal crackdown
- court case
- secular laws
- water canons
A week of revolution has taken place in Turkey. What started with 50 protesters defending Gezi Park, the last green space for peaceful assembly in Istanbul and “symbol of secular Turkey,” quickly swelled to more than 10,000 in the streets.
Citizens stood tall against the brutal crackdown, moving from a well-mannered protest against a shopping mall, through the hell of tear gas and water cannons, to solidarity, spirit and freedom. Hundreds of thousands of people came out into the streets, from every walk of life, in every city.
This peaceful protest was met with overwhelming force, and citizens became, in a moment, enemy combatants. They are our brothers and sisters under one family name: Occupy!
This Saturday, June 8th, Occupy Solidarity with #OccupyGeziNYC.
Turks and Greeks will stand side by side with Americans and Armenians, Arabs and Kurds, Jews, Christians and Muslims and all people who would unite for justice. Istanbul, Athens, New York.