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Ahmet Sik, a prominent Turkish journalist, holds his head after being hit by a tear gas cannister. AP

Tear gas, water cannons used on protesters trying to stop Turkish park being turned into shopping mall

Turkish police have been criticised for their heavy-handed approach to the protesters at Gezi Park in Istanbul.

RIOT POLICE have used tear gas and water cannons to end a peaceful sit-in by hundreds of people at a park in Istanbul, as they tried to stop trees from being torn up as part of plans to convert the park into a shopping mall.

The heavy actions came on the fourth day of a sit-in at Gezi Park in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square, which is at the centre of government plans to be handed over for commercial use.

Several protesters were injured during a police chase after a wall collapsed as they climbed it. At least two people, including well-known journalist Ahmet Sik, were hit in the head by tear gas cannisters flung by police.

At least two opposition members of parliament were among those hospitalised after coming into contact with the gas.

Later reports suggested that plastic bullets had been used against some protesters, while flares were being thrown at police by Ultras from the city’s major football clubs as darkness fell.

Riot police clash with demonstrators after they used tear gas and pressurized water in a dawn raid. (AP)

A number of Irish people attending the demonstrations, and who witnessed this morning’s police raid, wrote on how officials had used a signal dampener to try to limit any mobile internet coverage in the area.

The police action to end the four-day sit in, at dawn this morning, prompted a bitter anti-government protest that quickly spread to a dozen other cities in Turkey.

In solidarity with protesters in Istanbul, some 5,000 people gathered at a park in the capital, Ankara, chanting anti-government slogans demanding the resignation of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Aside from their calls to safeguard Gezi Park, many Istanbul protesters also aired grievances against Erdogan, who has been accused of shown open contempt of his critics during his government’s third successive term.

In a victory for the protesters, an Istanbul court this afternoon ordered the temporary suspension of the project to uproot the trees before the plot is levelled for construction work on the shopping complex.

However, demonstrators around the country continued their protests, hoping to draw the eyes of the world to the actions of a government who they believe is becoming increasingly authoritarian.

Earlier this week, the government went ahead with a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a disputed third bridge across the Bosporus Strait that some say will destroy the few remaining green areas of Turkey’s biggest sprawling city.

It also said the bridge would be named after a controversial Ottoman sultan who is believed to have ordered a massacre of a minority Shiite Muslim group.

Protesters in Gezi Park held up a large poster Friday with a caricature depicting Erdogan as an Ottoman sultan with a caption that read: “The people won’t yield to you.”

Erdogan dismissed the protesters’ demands, saying the government would go ahead with the renovation plans “no matter what they do.” The forestry minister said more trees would be planted than those uprooted at Gezi.

Meanwhile, the government last week enacted a law restricting the sale and advertising of alcohol, a move which has caused particular dismay among Turkey’s secular population.

Additional reporting by AP

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