Over 70 people were arrested and 11 were injured during demonstrations Saturday marking the one-year anniversary of Gezi Park and Taksim Square mass protests in Istanbul last year, Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD) said according to Turkish daily Hurriyet.
Turkish police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protests and sit-ins around the country, most notably in Istanbul and Ankara.
The Turkish government imposed a ban on demonstrations to mark the event, posting 25,000 police officers in Istanbul alone to prevent protesters from reaching Taksim Square.
Earlier, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that police would clamp down on anyone defying the ban.
“If you go there, our security forces have received clear-cut instructions and will do whatever is necessary from A to Z,” Erdogan told thousands of supporters at an Istanbul rally.
“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,” he said.
Erdogan urged young Turks to ignore the call to stage a protest to mark the anniversary of a movement that began last year as a neighborhood bid to save Gezi Park, adjacent to Taksim Square, from real estate developers.
“One year later, people, including so-called artists, are calling for demonstrations, but you, Turkey’s youth, you will not respond to the call,” Erdogan told a crowd of a thousand young people in Istanbul.
“These terrorist organisations manipulated our morally and financially weak youth to attack our unity and put our economy under threat,” Erdogan said.
Earlier Saturday, Erdogan labeled those mobilizing to mark the anniversary of the mass protests “terrorists.” Following a deadly police crackdown last year, the protests swelled into an outpouring of anger against the perceived authoritarian tendencies of the Islamic-rooted government.
One year on, the political tensions stemming from the Gezi revolt continue to simmer despite a decisive ruling party victory in March 30 local elections that has boosted Erdogan’s ambitions to stand for president in August.
A succession of crises over the last 12 months — from a government corruption scandal implicating the premier and key allies to the mine tragedy that killed 301 workers earlier this month — have sparked renewed anger at Erdogan’s leadership.
Critics meanwhile accuse Erdogan of pressing ahead with controversial policies including muzzling the press, tightening the government’s sway over the judiciary and curbing the Internet.