Turkish police fire water cannon, teargas at Istanbul protesters

ISTANBUL Sat Aug 3, 2013 3:39pm EDT

1 of 4. Anti-government protesters try to prevent the shutters of a shopping mall from closing, while attempting to take cover from riot police in the mall, at the main Istiklal Street in central Istanbul August 3, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Murad Sezer

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police fired teargas and water cannon to disperse small groups of anti-government protesters in central Istanbul on Saturday evening, television footage showed.

There was a heavy riot police presence in the area around Istanbul's central Taksim square early in the evening, after calls for anti-government protests were made on social media. However there were no signs of large-scale protests.

Halk TV footage showed police firing water cannon and teargas on the main pedestrian street leading to Taksim square and on adjoining side streets.

Protests and police intervention have continued sporadically in recent weeks after a nationwide wave of demonstrations in June against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, accused by his critics of becoming increasingly authoritarian.

Those demonstrations began with a small protest against the planned redevelopment of the city's Gezi Park at Taksim.

Five people died and thousands were injured in the anti-government unrest, which posed the biggest challenge to Erdogan's decade-old rule.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)