Hundreds of police in riot gear pushed past improvised barricades early today to reach Istanbul's central Taksim Square, firing tear gas and rubber bullets to scatter protesters who have occupied the area for more than a week. Many demonstrators fled into the square's Gezi Park, where hundreds have been camping as part of the occupation aimed at stopping a development project. Bulldozers immediately began dismantling barricades and makeshift shelters set up on the square, although they insisted they would not move into the park.
The police clampdown on Taksim Square came on the 12th day of nationwide protests that have morphed into a test of the authority of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The government announced late yesterday that Erdogan would meet with some of the Gezi Park protesters tomorrow, but that authorities would not allow "illegal" demonstrations to continue. Speaking today, Erdogan reiterated that the protests were part of an anti-government conspiracy, saying: "They are trying to prevent Turkey's rise. (The protesters) are being used by some financial institutions, the interest rate lobby, and media groups to (harm) Turkey's economy and (scare away) investments." (Read more Taksim Square stories.)