Turkish police entered Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Tuesday morning and began spraying tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters, as demonstrations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government entered their twelfth day.
The police, in riot gear and backed by armored vehicles, removed barricades erected by protesters in the area around Taksim Square, Reuters reported. Many protesters who had occupied the square for several days were moved into a nearby park, according to Associated Press.
The police began removing banners erected by protesters on a building near the square and replaced them with a large Turkish flag and a banner depicting Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the nation.
The aggressive move came shortly after Erdogan agreed to meet the leaders of the anti-government movement on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
“They asked to meet the prime minister and he agreed to meet with the organizers,” Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters in Ankara on Monday.
A BBC reporter, who was in the square when the riot police marched in, said it was a “deliberate show of force.”
Three people have died and more than 5,000 have suffered bodily harm, since the protests began on May 31 and developed into a massive nationwide movement seeking Erdogan’s resignation. The government said 600 policemen have also been injured, according to AP.