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Turkish police fire water cannon at Istanbul protesters

Anti-government protesters take cover as riot police use water cannon to disperse them at Taksim square in central Istanbul July 20, 2013. R
Anti-government protesters take cover as riot police use water cannon to disperse them at Taksim square in central Istanbul July 20, 2013. R

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police fired water cannon on Saturday to disperse hundreds of protesters who gathered to march to Gezi Park in central Istanbul, which has been at the heart of fierce demonstrations against Prime Minister Erdogan's rule.

Saturday's protests were triggered when police blocked access to the park where a couple, who met during last month's anti-government rallies, were planning to get married and had posted an invitation for guests to attend online.

Groups of riot police chased protesters down side streets leading away from Taksim square where Gezi park is located.

The police intervention was the first in a week in Istanbul after protesters marched on Taksim last weekend, angered by a government-sponsored bill which stripped an architects' and engineers' association involved in the protests, the TMMOB, of its final approval authority on urban planning projects.

What had started as a small protest against the planned redevelopment of Gezi Park triggered a nationwide wave of protest last month against Erdogan, accused by his critics of becoming increasingly authoritarian.

Five people died and thousands were injured in the police crackdown on the protests across Turkey, which posed the biggest challenge to Erdogan's decade-old rule.

While the protests have largely died down across the country, some demonstrations have persisted in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.

(Reporting by Daren Butler; Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Alison Williams)

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