Gurcan Ozturk / AFP - Getty Images
Protestors run from tear gas at the Taksim Gezi park in Istanbul, Turkey, after clashes with riot police, June 1.
ISTANBUL - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan made a defiant call for an end to the fiercest anti-government demonstrations in years on Saturday as authorities arrested almost a thousand people in protests across the country.
Riot police backed by armored vehicles and helicopters fired tear gas and water cannons in Istanbul and Ankara for a second day. Interior Minister Muammer Guler said 939 arrests had been made in more than 90 separate demonstrations.
The unrest was triggered by government plans for a replica Ottoman-era barracks housing shops or apartments in Istanbul's Taksim Square, long a venue for political protest, but has widened into a broader show of defiance against Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Crowds of protesters chanting "shoulder to shoulder against fascism" and "government resign" marched on Taksim, where hundreds were injured in clashes the day before. Broken glass, rocks and an overturned car littered the square as night fell.
A helicopter buzzed overhead as groups of mostly young men and women, bandanas or surgical masks tied around their mouths, used Facebook and Twitter on mobile phones to try to organize and regroup in side streets. Police clashed with protesters who lit fires in the streets leading to Erdogan's Istanbul office.
"If this is about holding meetings, if this is a social movement, where they gather 20, I will get up and gather 200,000 people. Where they gather 100,000, I will bring together one million from my party," Erdogan said in a televised speech.
"Every four years we hold elections and this nation makes its choice," he said. "Those who have a problem with government's policies can express their opinions within the framework of law and democracy."
Earlier, police pulled back from Gezi Park in Taksim, where the demonstration started peacefully on Monday with people pitching tents in protest at trees being torn up for the redevelopment.
Waiters scurried out of luxury hotels lining the square, on what should be a busy weekend for tourists in one of the world's most visited cities, ferrying lemons to protesters, who squirted the juice in their eyes to mitigate the effects of tear gas.
"People from different backgrounds are coming together. This has become a protest against the government, against Erdogan taking decisions like a king," said Oral Goktas, a 31-year old architect among a peaceful crowd walking towards Taksim.
Hundreds of protesters clashed with police in the streets of Istanbul for a second day on Saturday. ITV's Nick Thatcher reports.
This story was originally published on Sat Jun 1, 2013 5:58 AM EDTCopyright 2013 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.