ISTANBUL, May 31 (Xinhua) -- Turkish riot police attacked thousands of protesters in Istanbul and some 30 other cities across the country who intended to stage massive demonstrations to mark the first anniversary of the Gezi Park resistance movement on Saturday.
Turkish police use tear gas and water cannon to push back crowds of protesters who gather in the downtown area of Ankara, Turkey, on May 30, 2014, the anniversary of last year's nationwide anti-government demonstrations. (Xinhua/Mustafa Kaya)
Appealed by Turkish NGOs and labor unions, protesters in Istanbul gathered near Istiklal Street trying to march to Gezi Park near the city's symbolic Taksim Square. More than one thousand people took to Istiklal main street, while about another 1,500 gathered in Besiktas, a district located on the European shore of the Bosphorus Strait. Police fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
In the southern city of Adana, police also used tear gas and water cannons to scatter the protesters, some of whom had even been detained hours before the crackdown. Reports said that one person was injured in the head.
As Turks were preparing for massive demonstrations across the country, some 25,000 police, armor vehicles and 50 water cannons had been deployed to the Taksim area and its neighboring districts. Istanbul police had been reinforced by units coming from 11 different cities, including those in eastern and southeastern provinces like Mardin and Elazig.
Later in the afternoon all boat shuttles were suspended and metro closed near Levent district. Police cordoned off the Taksim area and did not let anyone enter the square.
Despite police repression, a nationwide rally still went off almost simultaneously at about 7:00 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) in at least 30 Turkish cities.
Earlier on Tuesday Turkish NGOs and platforms called people to take the streets on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of Gezi resistance movement which started last year when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan intended to turn Gezi Park near Taksim Square into a shopping mall under the guise of rebuilding the historical military barracks in the area.
The Gezi protests erupted on May 27, 2013, when a small group of protesters refused to leave Gezi Park in order to prevent the cutting of trees where a large development project was planned by the government. Following the government's harsh response, protests turned nationwide.