Riot police fired water cannons and tear gas as they drove protesters out of Istanbul's Taksim Square and neighboring Gezi Park today, an intervention that came shortly after the prime minister warned that security forces "know how to clear" the area. Within a half-hour, the police had emptied the park, leaving a series of colorful, abandoned tents behind. Bulldozers moved in afterward, scooping up debris as crews of workmen tore down the tents. Protesters put up little physical resistance, even as plain-clothes police shoved many of them to drive them from the park.
White smoke billowed skyward as a phalanx of white-helmeted riot police marched inside the park. They tore down protesters' banners, toppled a communal food stall, and sprayed tear gas over the tents—urging those inside to pull out. Protesters carried someone away on a stretcher. In a show of power before thousands of flag-waving party faithful, PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier threatened protesters in a boisterous speech. "I say this very clearly: either Taksim Square is cleared, or if it isn't cleared then the security forces of this country will know how to clear it," he told the crowd.