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Turkish labor unions plan general strike in protest at bloody crackdown

Workers clean Taksim Square after the crackdown action in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul has seen protests rage on for days.
Workers clean Taksim Square after the crackdown action in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul has seen protests rage on for days.Lam Yik Fei / Getty Images

A pair of Turkey’s labor unions said Sunday that they will hold a general strike Monday after riot police raided an Istanbul park and public square, firing plumes of powerful tear gas and water cannons at anti-government demonstrators.

Turkish police detained 441 people in connection with clashes in Istanbul on Sunday, an official at the city's bar association told Reuters on Monday. And an official from the Ankara bar association said 56 people were detained in the capital. 

The Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions (KESK) and the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DISK) announced the day-long strike in a joint statement, Reuters reported.

“We had already taken a decision to go on strike if there was an intervention on the park. So tomorrow we will declare a strike for Monday,” Mustafa Turgut, a spokesman for KESK, said.

The workers’ walkout follows more than two weeks of bloody demonstrations against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AK Party.

Protests Sunday put on display the rising tensions between Erdogan supporters and those demonstrating against him. Police continued to crackdown on Taksim Square, while Erdogan spoke to thousands of supporters just a few miles away.

"They say, 'Mr. prime minister, you are too harsh,' and some (call me) 'dictator'," Erdogan told supporters on Sunday. "What kind of a dictator meets with people who occupy Gezi Park as well as the sincere environmentalists?" he said, referencing a Thursday meeting with protest representatives.

The tumult was set off by the prime minister’s plan to build a replica of Ottoman-era barracks in Gezi Park, a decision that triggered a wider revolt against Erdogan's policies. Protesters and critics allege that the Turkish government has become increasingly authoritarian.

Even after Erdogan told protestors Thursday that he would postpone construction efforts, unrest persisted across Turkey, coming to a violent head at Taksim Square and nearby Gezi Park on Saturday after police attempted to evict protestors ahead of a pro-government rally.

Police stormed the park in a rapid military-style operation, unleashing a hail of tear gas and lobbing percussion bombs at demonstrators, sending them running in all directions, according to NBC’s Richard Engel and Emma Ong.

Officers fired stinging tear gas inside the nearby Divan Hotel, which protesters were using as a base. Some of the protesters inside fainted while others went limp as the lethal fumes wafted through the halls.

Armored police cars, fire trucks and sanitation vehicles were dispatched to clear away the tents, barricades and debris that were left in the park and the square over the course of a two-week sit-in.

The assault drew fierce condemnation from activists and aroused global attention.

Meanwhile on Sunday, tens of thousands of Erdogan's supporters massed at a rally in Istanbul — even as riot police fired tear gas to break up pockets of anti-government protesters in the city center some miles away.

"We are the silent majority, not the riff-raff who are trying to frighten us," Ruveyda Alkan, 32, said among the sea of Erdogan's AK Party faithful at an Istanbul parade ground

NBC News' Richard Engel and Emma Ong, and Reuters and the Associate Press contributed to this report.

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