NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ A police crackdown on street vendors in Kenya's capital led to violent clashes today, causing shops and small businesses to close in parts of downtown.

The vendors claim the crackdown has led to police harassment. Their charges have been backed by street ``touts,'' people who are paid by private minivan companies to urge passers-by to use their services.

The violence began early today when the touts _ who claim the police routinely demand bribes _ burned tires in the street in protest, closing off the area around a bus park.

Police responded with tear gas, and beat protesters with batons.

``The police provoked us,'' said David Karanja, a tout. ``Why are they arresting us and charging us with robbery? We are not thieves.''

Police spokesman Peter Kimanthi did not have arrest figures. He said there have been no reports of injuries.