Turkey’s prime minister yesterday rejected claims that he is an authoritarian leader, dismissing protesters as an extremist fringe even as hundreds moved back into the landmark square that was the site of the fiercest anti-government outburst in years.
Over the past days, protesters around the country have unleashed pent-up resentment against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who after 10 years in office many secular Turks see as an uncompromising figure with undue influence in every part of life.
A huge protest in Taksim Square subsided on Saturday night, but hundreds of people were streaming into the area again yesterday and some 1,500 were assembling in Ankara, the capital.
Many waved flags, sang and called on Mr Erdogan to resign. Some protesters have compared him to a sultan and denounced him as a dictator, but Mr Erdogan said: “Dictatorship does not run in my blood or in my character. I am the servant of the people.”
The demonstrations were ignited by a violent police crackdown on a peaceful sit-in to prevent the uprooting of trees at Istanbul’s Taksim Square.
Police and protesters clashed violently on Friday and Saturday, with hundreds injured.
Some 1,000 people were detained during the protests.