ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish riot police firing tear gas and water cannons took less than half an hour on Saturday to bring to an end an 18-day occupation of an Istanbul park at the center of the strongest challenge to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's 10-year rule.
The sweep by white-helmeted riot police emptied the Gezi park of protesters, leaving a series of colorful, abandoned tents behind. Bulldozers moved in afterward, scooping up debris as crews of workmen in hard hats and fluorescent yellow vests 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 riot police marched inside the park on Saturday. They tore down protesters' banners, toppled a communal food stall, and sprayed tear gas over the tents and urging those inside to get out.
For over two weeks, protesters had defied Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's warnings to vacate the area.
Tayfun Kahraman, a member of Taksim Solidarity, an umbrella group of protest movements, said an untold number of people in the park had been injured — some from rubber bullets.