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Turkish police break up protest

ISTANBUL -- Turkish police fired volleys of tear gas at protesters who tried to enter a cordoned-off park near Istanbul's landmark Taksim Square Saturday, hours after the city's governor warned the demonstration was illegal and participants would be dispersed.

A few thousand people converged on the square, with the aim of entering Gezi Park, whose redevelopment plans sparked anger and morphed into nationwide anti-government protests in June. Organizers had planned to serve notice to authorities of a court decision that has annulled redevelopment plans for Taksim and break through police cordons.

The park has been sealed off since June 15, when police routed environmentalists who occupied it amid about three weeks of widespread demonstrations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

His opponents say he has become increasingly authoritarian since coming to power a decade ago -- charges the government rejects.

The nationwide protests have largely dwindled, although thousands of demonstrators have been gathering at Taksim every Saturday for the past three weeks -- mostly demanding justice for a protester who was killed by police -- before police intervened.

This time, some protesters argued with police over their rights to enter Gezi park before officers in riot gear pushed them away from the square with pressurized water and tear gas. They then chased protesters down two main streets off Taksim, again firing tear gas and water cannons. Police later barricaded an entrance to the square.

Istanbul Gov. Huseyin Avni Mutlu said authorities planned to reopen the park Sunday or Monday.

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