PM defiant as protests continue
Protestors have clashed with police again as Turkey's prime minister rejected claims that he is a "dictator," dismissing protesters as an extremist fringe.
Over the past three days, protesters around the country have unleashed pent-up resentment against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who after 10 years in office many Turks see as an uncompromising figure with undue influence in every part of life.
A huge, exuberant protest in Taksim Square subsided overnight, but an estimated 10,000 people again streamed into the area, many waving flags, chanting "victory, victory, victory" and calling on Erdogan's government to resign.
Under Erdogan's leadership, Turkey has boosted economic growth and raised its international profile. But he has been a divisive figure at home, with his government recently passing legislation curbing the sale of alcohol and taking a strong stand against the Syrian regime that some believe has put security at risk.
The demonstrations were ignited by a violent police crackdown on a peaceful sit-in to prevent the uprooting of trees at Taksim Square and have since spread around the country. More skirmishes broke out in the capital, Ankara, with police unleashing tear gas at several thousand protesters who tried to march toward Erdogan's office from the city's main square.
A group of youths formed a barricade and hurled fire bombs or threw gas canisters at police. Medical students set up a make-shift clinic on the grounds of a nearby university alumni club and took care of demonstrators affected by tear gas.
Selcuk Atalay, secretary general of the Ankara branch of the Turkish Doctors' Association, said 484 protesters have been treated in hospitals in the city since Friday. One demonstrator was in critical condition.
In Istanbul's Taksim Square, dozens of people climbed on the roof of a cultural centre that Erdogan says will be demolished and turned into an opera hall.
"If they call someone who has served the people a 'dictator,' I have nothing to say," Erdogan said in an address to a group representing migrants from the Balkans. "My only concern has been to serve my country."
In another speech delivered later, Erdogan said: "I am not the master of the people. Dictatorship does not run in my blood or in my character. I am the servant of the people."