The Turkish deputy prime minister has said that the army could be deployed to halt protests that have swept the nation over the past two weeks.
Bulent Arinc who had once appealed to protesters on Monday said the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) could be pressed into action if the police failed to restore order.
“What is required of us is to stop if there is a protest against the law. Here is the police, if not enough gendarme, if not TSK,” he said in a televised interview to the A Haber channel.
The threat came as members of two union federations in Turkey went on a one-day strike over the forced evictions of protesters from Istanbul’s Gezi Park a day earlier.
Labour groups representing doctors, engineers and dentists are also said to have joined the strike on Monday. The striking groups represent about 800,000 workers.
The Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler said the strike was “illegal” and warned of police action.
Riot police, some in plain clothes and carrying batons, backed by a helicopter, fired teargas and chased groups of rock-throwing youths into side streets around the iconic Taksim Square and Gezi Park late on Sunday night, trying to prevent them from regrouping.
There were also disturbances in other parts of the city that had so far largely been spared the violence, including around the Galata bridge, which crosses to the historic Sultanahmet district, and the upmarket Nisantasi neighbourhood.
The police had earlier during the day moved in to clear Gezi Park of protesters occupying the area adjoining Taksim Square, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed hundreds of thousands of his supporters at an Istanbul parade.
Erdogan told thousands of flag-waving supporters that two weeks of unrest had been manipulated by “terrorists” and dismissed suggestions that he was behaving like a dictator, a constant refrain from those who have taken to the streets.
“They say ‘you are too tough’, they say ‘dictator’. What kind of a dictator is this who met the Gezi Park occupiers and honest environmentalists? Is there such a dictator?” Erdogan said to roars of approval from the crowd.
He dismissed the demonstrations as “nothing more than the minority’s attempt to dominate the majority … We could not have allowed this and we will not allow it.”
A small-scale environmental protest against government plans to redevelop Gezi Park had developed into a larger movement against the government of Erdogan.
The clashes pose no immediate threat to Erdogan’s leadership, but they have tarnished Turkey’s image as a stable country on the fringes of the volatile Middle East, and presented him with the greatest challenge of his 10-year rule.