ISTANBUL—The White House is calling for calm in Turkey after an estimated ten thousand protesters gathered Sunday on Taksim Square for the third day of protests against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
White House spokeswoman Laura Lucas issued a statement saying while the U.S. believes peaceful public demonstrations “are a part of democratic expression,” Turkey’s long-term stability is best guaranteed by upholding “the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association.”
The statement asked for all parties in Turkey to “calm the situation.”
Initially it appeared things were returning back to normal Sunday morning after most protesters left the square following a morning rain. But at noon, protesters started flooding back into Taksim Square, many waving flags, chanting “Victory, victory, victory” and calling on Erdogan’s government to resign.
Erdogan on Sunday rejected claims that he is a “dictator,” dismissing the protesters as an extremist fringe.
In another speech, delivered an hour later, Erdogan said: “I am not the master of the people. Dictatorship does not run in my blood or in my character. I am the servant of the people.”
Erdogan delivered two speeches Sunday and appeared in a television interview.
Protests started Friday after police forcefully broke up a protest against the construction of a new shopping mall. Protests quickly erupted in violent clashes between police and protesters and spread to other cities.
Interior Minister Muammer Guler said some 1,750 people had been detained since May 28, but most had since been released.
More skirmishes broke out in the capital, Ankara, on Sunday, with police unleashing tear gas at several thousand protesters who tried to march toward Erdogan’s office from the city’s main square.
A group of youths formed a barricade and hurled fire bombs or threw gas canisters back at police.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.