Police will remove protesters from Istanbul's Taksim Square within the next 24 hours, said Turkey's prime minister on Thursday, in a blunt warning that marks the end of the government's patience with a weeks-long rally that's escalated into violence.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued the order on the heels of a particularly violent clash between riot police and protesters that raised the death toll from the two-week standoff from one to five, The Associated Press reported.
A total of 620 — including a 1-year-old baby — have been injured in recent days, as police have tried to control crowds with tear gas and water cannons, CBS reported.
The protests started on May 31 over a development plan for a popular park. But the rallies quickly took a turn to target Mr. Erdogn's government, perceived by some as taking an authoritarian approach to impose Islamic principles in a nation that prides itself on more secular rule. Mr. Erdogan heads the Justice and Development Party, which also holds most of the seats in Turkey's national assembly.
As a concession to park protesters, Mr. Erdogan also announced that the ruling party will hold a referendum on the plans to develop Gezi Park into a shopping mall, BBC reported.
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