ISTANBUL – Turkish police used water cannons, tear gas and pepper spray on Tuesday to disperse hundreds of demonstrators protesting against the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank held in Istanbul.
Dozens of masked protesters shattered the windows of a McDonald's restaurant and several banks, also damaging vehicles as they ran into the streets behind Istanbul's Taksim Square, which is less than half a mile from the venue of the IMF and World Bank meeting.
The protesters armed with firebombs and slings repeatedly confronted the police in narrow back streets but a heavy police presence prevented them from reaching the meeting venue.
Thousands of police wearing gas masks and protective gear erected barriers around the venue and detained more than 70 protesters, said Istanbul governor, Muammer Guler.
The protesters were mostly members of small leftist parties or labor unions. CNN-Turk television said some foreign protesters were also involved. Police helicopters hovered above the crowds.
Clouds of tear gas filled the air above Taksim Square while firefighters battled a blaze set by protesters. Passers-by and reporters were also affected by the tear gas. The streets were littered with debris from damaged shops and empty gas canisters.
Several shop owners shuttered their businesses along the famous tourist route of Istiklal Street, which was deserted in a matter of minutes as patrons hid inside the shops or bazaars.
Last week, a student journalist hurled a shoe at IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the finance official answered questions at a university in Istanbul. The shoe missed its target.
Turkey and the International Monetary Fund are engaged in slow-moving talks about a new loan deal that could boost investor confidence, but Turkey has been reluctant to cut spending and implement austerity measures.