Turkey Locks Down Taksim Square On Gezi Protests Anniversary

Turkish riot police used tear gas and water cannons to fight off protesters seeking to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Gezi Park protest.
Posted at 10:13 PM, May 31, 2014

Turkish police took over the streets of Istanbul Saturday to lock down the city, as demonstrates marked the one year anniversary of the country's explosive Gezi Park protests.

Riot police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters trying unsuccessfully to reach Taksim Square. Dozens of people were arrested and several injured in the clashes. (Via BBC)

Police also harassed CNN correspondent Ivan Watson during a live report from Istanbul.

WATSON: "Errol, we're being detained right now."

Watson later tweeted that he had been safely released after a brief detention, and that one of the officers had apologized for kicking him. 

Taksim Square was the center of last year's rallies against a planned renovation of Gezi Park, which transformed into weeks of protests against Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Via Voice of America)

Those protests caused a number of fatalities and prompted a harsh crack down on dissent within the country. Since then, Erdogan's administration has been plagued by a number of corruption scandals.

In a speech yesterday, Erdogan made clear he would not tolerate a repeat of last year's protests. He warned protesters, saying "You will not be able to take to (Taksim) like you did last year because you are obliged to abide by the laws... If you do not, the state will do whatever is necessary for its security." (Via Middle East Online)

But despite the fact that protesters didn't make it to Taksim Square this year, a political commentator for Hurriyet Daily News says the demonstrations still managed to rattle Turkey's politicians.

"If you have any doubts about the impact of Gezi, just observe the number of policemen on the streets this weekend. ... Gezi freaked out the ruling elite of Turkey a year ago and look who is still freaking out."

The protests come as Turkey is preparing to hold its first-ever direct presidential election August 10. Erdogan is expected to run for the position after local elections in March showed widespread public support for his party.