Riot police fired water cannons and tear gas as they drove protesters out of Istanbul's Taksim Square and neighboring Gezi Park on Saturday, an intervention that came shortly after the prime minister warned that security forces "know how to clear" the area.

Within a half-hour, the sweep by white-helmeted riot police had emptied the park, leaving a series of colorful, abandoned tents behind. Bulldozers moved in afterward, scooping up debris as crews of workmen in hard hats and fluorescent yellow vests tore down the tents. Protesters put up little physical resistance, even as plain-clothes police shoved many of them to drive them from the park.

For over two weeks, protesters had defied Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's warnings to vacate the area. A brutal police intervention on May 31 against those protesting plans to redevelop the square and the park had sparked the biggest anti-government protests in Turkey in decades and dented Erdogan's international reputation.