Thousands of infuriated Turks took to the streets on Saturday to join mass anti-government protests, defying Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call to end the worst civil unrest of his decade-long rule.
From the early morning, protesters began arriving in Istanbul’s Taksim Square with food and blankets to settle in for a weekend of protests, adding to the growing tent city in nearby Gezi Park.
Fresh demonstrations were also planned in the capital Ankara as the unrest entered its ninth day.
Erdogan on Friday called for an immediate end to the protests, saying his Islamist-rooted government was open to “democratic demands” but insisting that the protests were “bordering on vandalism.”
His comments come as Turkish police have been criticized strongly for using excessive force against peaceful protests. Police have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators, injuring thousands and leaving three dead.
Turkey’s trouble began when police cracked down heavily on a small campaign to save Gezi Park from demolition, spiraling into nationwide demos against Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), seen as increasingly authoritarian.