ISTANBUL: Fresh violence erupted on Wednesday as protesters defied a government plea to end days of deadly unrest, the biggest challenge yet to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decade-long rule.
Police used tear gas and water cannon on hundreds of protesters, who ignored warnings to disperse in Istanbul, Ankara and the southeastern city of Hatay, where a young protester died a day earlier.
The violence came after a second major trade union confederation announced it would join protests against the government, calling a strike for Wednesday.
In the western city of Izmir, police detained at least 25 people early Wednesday for tweeting “misleading and libellous information,” state-run Anatolia news agency reported.
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc apologized to legitimate demonstrators injured by the security forces, a gesture welcomed by the United States.
But that did not appease outraged protestors.
Thousands gathered at Istanbul’s Taksim Square for a sixth day on Wednesday, yelling defiance at Erdogan, who earlier had dismissed the protesters as “extremists” and “vandals.” He was in Algeria on the second day of a four-day official visit to north Africa.
“The vandals are here! Where is Tayyip?” yelled the crowd.
They accuse Erdogan, who has won three successive national elections, of imposing conservative Islamic reforms on the predominantly Muslim but constitutionally secular nation.
But the festive atmosphere in the square was a change from the tense rallies of the previous five days. Turkish pipe music and singing blared over speakers as the crowd clapped along.
Even fans from rival football teams Galatasaray, Besiktas and Fenerbahce linked arms, united in protest.
The wave of protests broke out on Friday after police tear-gassed demonstrators at a peaceful rally against plans to build on an Istanbul park.