ISTANBUL: Turkey’s leaders faced a fourth day of protests on Monday after demonstrators clashed with police firing tear gas, in the biggest outburst of anger at the Islamist-rooted government since it took power more than a decade ago.
A defiant Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was due to leave later on Monday on a four-day official trip abroad, underlining his scorn of the protesters and their charges that he had become a dictator.
Istanbul’s main Taksim Square, where the protests first erupted, was relatively quiet early Monday as people started the first workday since tensions boiled over on Friday.
But protesters’ banners and barriers of scrap metal remained, suggesting they would return to resume days of demonstrations that have by some accounts left hundreds injured around the country.
Overnight, police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters who marched on Erdogan’s offices in Istanbul and in the capital Ankara.
“Dictator, resign! . . . We will resist until we win,” yelled the crowds, who hurled stones and lit fires in the streets.
Erdogan has dismissed the protesters as “a bunch of vandals” though admitting “mistakes” by the police in their initial response.
He was due to leave the country on Monday for a four-day tour of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, an official in his office said.
Police had withdrawn on Saturday from Taksim Square, the hub of demonstrations that started over an unpopular building project nearby and boiled over into a general protest against the government.
The flashpoint shifted late Sunday to the Besiktas area north of Taksim, near Erdogan’s Istanbul base.
Agence France-Presse reporters there and in Ankara saw police disperse thousands of demonstrators and incidents continued into early Monday.