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The U.S. ambassador to Turkey used a reception marking an early celebration of the Fourth of July to tell Turkish officials to respect their fellow citizens who have taken to the streets to express discontent with the government.

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant fans, foreign ideas, alien philosophies and competitive values,” Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone Jr. said at the reception Monday.

He then quoted President John F. Kennedy: “For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

Turkey has been gripped by weeks of street protests by citizens increasingly dissatisfied with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has denounced them as “extremists.”

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