Turkey warns it may deploy army to halt protests

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The Turkish government on Monday said it may deploy the army to help police officers quell nearly three weeks of mass anti-government protests, reported AFP.

Police “will use all their powers” to end the unrest, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said in a televised interview. “If this is not enough, we can even utilize the Turkish armed forces in cities,” as quoted by AFP.

Tensions escalated in Turkey as the interior minister said the nationwide union strike by demonstrators protesting against police violence was “illegal”.

“There is an attempt to bring people on to the streets through illegal protests like a strike,” Muammer Guler told reporters in Ankara. “I want to state that it will not be permitted,” reported AFP.

Riot police backed by water cannon warned around 1,000 trade union workers to stop blocking a major avenue in the center of the capital Ankara on Monday or face intervention, a Reuters witness said.

“Those of you on the streets must stop blocking the streets. Do not be provoked. The police will use force," police officers shouted through megaphones as several water cannon were positioned a few hundred meters away, according to Reuters.

The workers were marching with flags as they chanted anti-government slogans, as part of their national strike.

On Sunday, two of Turkey's main trade union federations, KESK and DISK, announced their nationwide strike as police cracked down on anti-government demonstrators in Istanbul overnight.

“We are going on strike tomorrow across the country, with DISK and other vocational organizations,” Baki Cinar said. “Our demand is for police violence to end immediately,” AFP reported.

Tens of thousands of Turkish government supporters gathered in Istanbul on Sunday, as Turkish riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at the defiant demonstrators.

According to AP, authorities evicted activists from the Istanbul park and maintained a hard line stance at any attempt to rekindle protests that have shaken the country in recent days.

Police in uniform and plainclothes sealed off Istanbul's central Taksim Square and adjacent Gezi Park, where crews worked through the night to clear away all traces of a sit-in that started more than two weeks ago and became the focus of the strongest challenge to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his 10 years in office, AP said.

Turkey’s recent trouble first began when a peaceful sit-in to save Gezi Park’s 600 trees from being razed in a redevelopment plan prompted a brutal police response on May 31.

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