Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered his interior minister on Wednesday to end all antigovernment protests within 24 hours, as thousands of protesters returned to Taksim Square after riot police officers dispersed crowds overnight with tear gas and water cannons.
At a meeting in Ankara with representatives of the Confederation of Turkish Tradesmen and Craftsmen, a labor union, Mr. Erdogan dismissed international criticism of his handling of the protests and claimed that Turkish intelligence knew three months ago about local and foreign efforts to inflict chaos in Turkey, according to a union official who attended the meeting and who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“There are people who claim this is the Turkish Spring, but what they do not see is that Turkey has been living through its spring since 2002,” said Mr. Erdogan, referring to the year his Justice and Development Party won a majority of seats in Parliament.
“By tomorrow at the latest, the Gezi Park incident will end,” he continued. “This is a public park, not an area of occupation.”
For nearly two weeks, the prime minister has remained largely defiant, demanding that protesters leave the square, placing armed police officers on standby to sweep the area and insisting that the demonstrations were nothing like the Arab Spring protests, which ousted entrenched leaders across the Middle East and northern Africa. But as homemade firebombs and tear gas wafted through the city center, it seemed that Mr. Erdogan and his supporters had miscalculated the opposition’s tenacity and conviction.
“Thugs! Thugs!” a protester shouted at the police as she was shrouded in a cloud of tear gas. “Let God bring the end of you!”
# New York Times, June 12 .