Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told hundreds of thousands of supporters it was his "duty" to evict activists from an Istanbul park.
Speaking at a massive rally Sunday, Erdogan said two weeks of street protests were manipulated by "terrorists." He dismissed opposition allegations that he was behaving like a dictator and he criticized foreign media coverage of the protests.
As he spoke, riot police in central Istanbul fired tear gas to stop protesters from regrouping in the main Taksim Square, after police forcibly drove them out of a nearby park that has been the center of protests against Erdogan's government.
The prime minister said his patience with the demonstrators had ended. Security forces used tear gas and water cannons to clear the park on Saturday evening.
Protests against government plans to tear down the park for new construction started two weeks ago but quickly built into nationwide protests against Erdogan. The protesters accuse him of imposing his conservative Islamic views on the country.
The prime minister told protesters last week that he would put redevelopment plans for the park on hold until a court rules on them. He also said he would hold a referendum on the issue if the court rules in the government's favor.