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Turkey police reportedly raid homes, arrest suspected protesters

Updated at 6:25 a.m. Eastern

ANKARA, Turkey Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday he would increase police powers following a wave of anti-government protests.

The announcement came as police carried out raids across the country and detained dozens of people suspected of involvement in violence against officers.

The government has been criticized for the disproportionate use of force by the police in anti-government protests that swept Turkey for over two weeks. It was a brutal operation against peaceful environmental protesters in Istanbul park on May 31 that sparked nationwide demonstrations and dented Erdogan's international image.

Erdogan defended the police saying they had acted with restraint and within their "rights," adding: "We shall strengthen police ... so that it has increased powers of intervention."

Turkey's NTV television said the raids in Ankara and Istanbul were targeting left-wing groups.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency said at least 25 people were detained in Ankara and many others in Istanbul.

Turkish choreographer Erdem Gunduz (center) stands on Istanbul's Taksim Square
Turkish choreographer Erdem Gunduz (center) stands on Istanbul's Taksim Square, joined by others, following what had been a lone protest, June 18, 2013. Getty

Earlier, police detained a dozen people who stood still at Istanbul's Taksim Square in a form of passive defiance against Erdogan's authority. The first such protest was carried out late Monday by performance artist Erdem Gunduz, who stood alone for hours in the square.

The square has been sealed off from mass protests since police cleared it over the weekend, but they have not sealed the square off from pedestrians.

Others copied Gunduz in Istanbul and other cities, and the act provoked widespread comment on social media.

Erdem's vigil was broken up by police early Tuesday after others joined him.

The wave of anti-government protest that has swept through Turkey starting May 31 has shaken the country's secular democracy.