ISTANBUL — In Istanbul, Turkey largest city, clashes are continuing near the prime minister’s office as unrest against the government grows. The protests, which are continuing to spread across the country, accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of acting in an increasing authoritarian way and threatening individual freedoms.
Demonstrators in Istanbul clashed with security forces well into Sunday night, in some of the worst violence since civil unrest broke out here three days ago. There are reports of injuries and mass arrests in the violence, which occurred close to the prime minister’s office.
Confrontations in Ankara also continued into the night after a day of unrest. Demonstrations are spreading across the country. Authorities say 1,700 people have been detained, although most have been released.
But at Istanbul’s Taksim Square, ground zero for the protest movement, Sunday passed without incident, with thousands of people peacefully gathering to demonstrate. It was the violent police crackdown on Friday against citizens protesting a planned shopping mall that gave birth to the largest protest movement the country has seen in decades.
The protestors accuse Prime Minister Erdogan of increasingly acting in an authoritarian way and seeking to impose a conservative agenda on society. Some demonstrators said the prime minister has to change course.
"He has a huge ego and he can do very very bad things. He even can use normal bullets against his people," said one protester.
"I had to be here to show everybody that we are here we are looking for our rights. So for me we had to do it," said another participant in the demonstration.
Many of the demonstrators are young and appear not affiliated with any political party. The protest movement is made up of a wide cross section of society - rich, poor, students and workers, even well-known professional sportsmen have joined the protests. But Prime Minister Erdogan remains defiant. On Sunday, he described the protestors as marauders and looters, and even described Twitter as evil. Twitter is the mainstay for protestors to communicate. He also blamed party politics for the unrest.
He said, We think that the main opposition party which is making resistance calls on every street is provoking these protests They are manipulating a peaceful protest because they were unable to beat me at the ballot box.
But the main opposition parties have been careful to avoid being too closely associated with the protests. Observers say the protesters' rallying call of individual freedom for now appears to be striking a chord within Turkish society. With demonstrators and the prime minister refusing to back down, the battle of wills is growing.