Hundreds of Turkish police are fending off protesters after taking over Taksim Square in Istanbul. Violent clashes are happening in the surrounding streets, which the RT crew on site describes as ‘a real meat grinder’.
Hundreds of security troops have arrived at the scene early morning. The square itself was mostly empty of protesters at the time.
The few protesters present at the square when police arrived were quickly dispersed with tear gas, eyewitnesses report. They retreated to neighboring areas and are launching sporadic assaults at police forces, being beaten back each time.
While the square itself saw relatively low level of violence during the first hours of the operation, the surrounding streets have become a place of serious confrontation, RT’s crew reports from the scene.
“There are serious clashes in the small streets surrounding the square. They are running after each other tossing stones, bottles and smoke grenades there. It’s a real meat grinder in there,” reports RT’s Ashraf El Sabbagh.
Others were using water cannons to scatter the protesters trying to retake the square. The activists threw firebombs and fireworks at the armored police trucks.
One of the trucks with water cannon mounted on it caught fire after a Molotov cocktail hit it, but another one doused the flame.
RT’s crew was among those who were teargassed at Taksim Square. A camera operator was hurt and his camera was damaged, when a tear gas canister hit the group.
The Monument of the Republic, commemorating the 5th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 is located in Taksim Square. The monument was covered with some anti-government and pro-revolution graffiti by the protesters.
At the scene police are calling on the protesters to stay back and not interfere with the operation.
While the police maintain control of the square, crews of activists are gathering near the site, with tension building by the minute.
Some people on social media speculate that the morning dispersal was staged by the Turkish authorities to discredit the protest. They say the people tossing Molotov cocktails at police are agents provocateurs, who play along the official depiction of the protesters as riffraff and extremists.
The development follows sporadic night clashes between security forces and rioting protesters in Ankara. Turkish police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds.
Taksim Square is one of primary locations of anti-government protests in Turkey, which are entering their 11th day on Tuesday.
The protests started as a small environmentalist sit-in aimed at stopping a city development project that would see trees cut down at Gezi Park, right next to the Taksim Square plaza. But it grew into a nation-wide anti-government movement following the brutal dispersal of Gezi Park defenders on May 29.