The protests have spread to 67 of Turkey's 81 provinces, according to the semi-official Anadolou News Agency. On Monday, a confederation of unions claiming some 240,000 members added its voice to the anti-Erdogan chorus, saying it would go on strike against what it called the "fascism" of Erdogan's ruling party.
|Taksim square in peaceful days (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Erdogan dismissed the street protests as organized by Turkey's opposition and extremist groups and angrily rejected comparisons with the Arab Spring uprisings.
"We already have a spring in Turkey," he said, alluding to the nation's free elections. "But there are those who want to turn this spring into winter.
"Be calm, these will all pass," he said.
Tensions were high near police barricades. People wearing homemade gas masks and carrying sticks made their way down toward the Besiktas neighborhood, which acts as the front line between protester-controlled territory and police. Many had scrawled their blood types on their forearms with magic markers in case they are injured.
The fighting was fiercest in Besiktas near an Ottoman-era Dolmabahce Palace where the prime minister has his Istanbul office. Freelance photographer Dogan Emre was at the scene until about 2 a.m. Monday.
"Police fired hundreds of tear gas (canisters) and they didn't stop," he said. "There were many injured men and women and there weren't any ambulances. Civilians were helping the injured in a mosque. They used the mosque like a hospital."
By midday Monday the subway system had reopened and municipal workers were cleaning the streets. The smell of paint thinner was in the air as anti-government graffiti was scrubbed off storefronts.
The Turkish Medical Association claimed that at least 3,195 people had been injured in clashes Sunday and Monday. Only 26 of them were in serious or critical condition, it said. One protester, Mehmet Ayvalitas, died of his injuries, the association said.
The association reported that the bulk of the injuries occurred in Istanbul, where the protests began before spreading to Ankara, Izmir, Adana and other locations.
International groups including Amnesty International have criticized the police response as excessive. In Ankara Sunday night, a CNN crew witnessed authorities roughing up at least one protester. One police officer kicked a CNN videographer, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reported, and a CNN crew in Istanbul Sunday also witnessed bloodied protesters.