(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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June 14, 2013 01:30 PM