Dozens injured as police use water cannon and tear gas at escalating anti-government rallies in Istanbul and Ankara.
Turkish riot police have used tear gas and water cannon during clashes with thousands of protesters in Istanbul, as more people joined the second day of the fiercest anti-government demonstrations for years.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called for an immediate end to the protests, that were triggered by government redevelopment plans of a park in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.
The protests have since widened into a broader show of defiance against Erdogan and his government and spread to Ankara and other cities.
Interior Minister Muammer Guler said 79 people have been injured in the unrest and hundreds detained.
“There have been 939 detentions in various cities. Some of them have already been released,” Guler told reporters in comments broadcast by Turkish state television.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, the vice president of foreign affairs, told Al Jazeera that protests turned violent with demonstrators attacking police cars and destroying property.
But he did admit that police officers used “excessive force” against demonstrators and said it would be investigated.
“It is true police used excessive force and this is not acceptable. We can not accept this because we have been trying to democratise this country,” he said.
Earlier, police fired tear gas and water cannon down a major shopping street as crowds chanting “unite against fascism” and “government resign” marched towards Taksim, where hundreds were injured in clashes on Friday.
A police 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 organise and regroup in side streets.
Hundreds of people were chasing police vehicles as they were trying to leave the area.
Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from Taksim Square, said there was growing momentum against Erdogan.
“What protesters are telling us here is that they are angry about what they are describing as the stubborn reaction of the prime minister and the heavy-handed tactics of his police force.
“The protesters have been directing their anger both at the PM and also at the media. They say the media has sold out and is not covering these events.”
One of the protesters told Al Jazeera: “It started with us defending the last bit of green space we have left. We have been gassed, we have been clubbed, and we have been hospitalised.”
Ibrahin Kalin, chief adviser to the prime minister, told Aljazeera that police had fired tear gas in response to a group of protesters attacking police as they were leaving Taksim Square.
After police left the area, a celebratory mood spread in the square, with people waving flags, and cheering and clapping at anti-government speeches. Many drank beer in protest of newly enacted alcohol curbs, singing “cheers Tayyip!”
Elsewhere in Istanbul, protesters made their way towards the prime minister’s office in Besiktas.
Al Jazeera’s Gokhan Yivciger reported that they hijacked a truck from the municipality which they used as a barricade against the police, who were using tear gas to keep protesters at a distance.
Stone-throwing protesters also clashed with police firing tear gas in the Kizilay district of central Ankara. Riot police with electric shock batons chased demonstrators into side streets and shops.
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