(ISTANBUL) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rallied supporters in Istanbul Sunday, hours after riot police were brought in from all over the country to keep protesters at bay, often with tear gas and water cannons.
The speech came after demonstrators were cleared from Taksim Square Saturday night, where they had been encamped since protests over the redevelopment of Gezi Park began on May 31.
However, clashes between police and demonstrators continued throughout the day and night as thousands of people also gathered in the capital, Ankara, to show their support for anti-Erdogan forces.
During his speech, Erdogan defended his tough actions, saying they were necessary to regain order in Turkey and ensure the rule of law, which is part of his duty as prime minister.
Meanwhile, the Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions called for workers to engage in a nationwide strike on Monday.
Late last week, Erdogan’s regime abided by a court decision to suspend the demolition of Gezi Park, which could lead to a referendum on the issue.
The controversy touched off two weeks of full-blown civil unrest throughout Turkey as Erdogan’s opponents accused him and his AKP party of rolling back civil rights in the secular Muslim country.
Erdogan’s opponents have accused riot police of using unnecessary violence that led to four deaths and more than 5,000 people injured.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Joshua Berlinger and Nima Elbagir, CNN Newswire
Junko Ogura, Madison Park, Yoko Wakatsuki and Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire