Turkish riot police has used tear gas and water cannons to empty the Gezi Park in Istanbul of anti-government protesters, CNN reported.
The police sweep at the park, which has become the center of protests against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian policies, took about 30 minutes late on Saturday, followed by the demolition of protesters’ tent camp by bulldozers.
CNN cited Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu as saying at least 29 demonstrators were injured in clashes with police.
Members of Taksim Solidarity, an umbrella group of protest movements, had defied the Turkish government’s demands to leave the site for over two weeks.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had earlier lashed out at the protests as a “plot” against his 10-year tenure, issued his last warning to protesters late on Saturday when he delivered a speech addressing his supporters in Ankara.
“If it is not emptied, from now on, this country’s security forces will know how to empty that place,” he said.
The sit-in protest against the planned redevelopment of the Gezi Park in central Istanbul sparked violent anti-government demonstrations across the country in the past two weeks. At least five people died and thousands were injured during the unrest.
The protest represents a serious political challenge to Erdogan as Taksim Solidarity vowed to continue anti-government rallies until their key demands are satisfied.