Police fire rubber bullets, tear gas on Istanbul protesters

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Turkish riot police on Saturday fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of protesters trying to enter an Istanbul square that was the cradle of deadly unrest that engulfed the country in June.

The police moved in when demonstrators protesting in the city’s Beyoglu neighborhood against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved toward nearby Taksim Square.

The square was the birthplace of weeks of unrest that erupted throughout Turkey after police on May 31 brutally broke up a peaceful sit-in there against a government redevelopment plan for adjacent Gezi Park.

Weeks of civil unrest followed, leaving five people dead and some 8,000 injured, and presenting the country’s Islamic-rooted government with the biggest challenge of its decade-plus-long rule and earning Ankara sharp rebuke from the West.

Gezi Park, which was closed after police forcibly removed protesters on June 15, was re-opened to the public at the start of the week, but protests there remain prohibited.

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