ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — In a series of increasingly belligerent speeches to cheering supporters Sunday, Turkey’s prime minister demanded an end to the 10-day anti-government protests that have spread across the country, saying those who do not respect the government will pay.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his patience was running out with the protesters, who have occupied Istanbul’s main Taksim Square for more than a week and have held hundreds of demonstrations in dozens of cities across the country.
Raising the stakes for those opposing him on Turkish streets and squares, Erdogan said he plans to bring out his supporters for rallies in Ankara and Istanbul next weekend.
Erdogan’s increasingly fiery tone could inflame tensions, with tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in the country’s largest city, Istanbul, and thousands in the capital, Ankara, remaining on the streets. On two occasions, including one in the southern city of Adana on Saturday night, clashes have been reported between Erdogan supporters and protesters.
Protests have been held in 78 cities across the country since May 31, sparked by a violent police crackdown on a peaceful protest objecting to the redevelopment of Taksim Square and its Gezi Park.
They have since morphed into a general denunciation of what many see as Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian ways after a decade in power, and as an attempt to impose his conservative, religious mores in a country governed by secular laws.
The protests have attracted a diverse crowd from all social backgrounds and age groups. Three people have died, including a police officer in Adana who fell into an underpass under construction while chasing demonstrators. More than 4,300 protesters have sought medical treatment, human rights groups have said.
“We showed patience but our patience has its limits,” Erdogan told a crowd of thousands of party supporters who turned out to cheer his arrival at Ankara airport on Sunday, in the third of about seven speeches given through the afternoon and evening.
Looking much like a candidate on a campaign trail, Erdogan delivered speeches at two airports, a sports hall, two Ankara districts and atop a bridge before heading to his party headquarters. At each, thousands of supporters turned out to cheer him.
“Stand firm, don’t yield, Turkey is with you,” they chanted.
Erdogan called repeatedly for the protests to end.
“I call on my brothers who are duped: please put an end to your actions. Look, we have come to these days with patience. As a prime minister I say: enough!”
In a separate speech, he added: “Otherwise I will have to speak the language you understand. Patience has an end. You cannot show Turkey as a country where there is an environment of terror.”
As he spoke, tens of thousands of protesters turned out in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, while thousands more turned out on the seafront in the western coastal city of Izmir, television footage showed. In the capital, police used water cannon to break up a gathering by thousands of demonstrators in Ankara’s Kizilay Square.
Clashes also broke out between about 2,000 protesters and riot police in Sultangazi, a troubled neighborhood on the outskirts of Istanbul populated mainly by Kurds and Alevis.