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Erdogan Rejects 'Dictator' Claims

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected claims that he is an authoritarian leader.

Erdogan's comments came after a harsh police crackdown against antigovernment protesters.

Erdogan, whose Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party has been in power since 2002, is accused by opponents of becoming increasingly authoritarian.

The Turkish prime minister rejected these allegations when addressing supporters in Ankara on June 2.

"[Demonstrators] have been removing cobblestones and breaking windows of local stores," he said. "Is this democracy? They say Tayyip Erdogan is a dictator. I have nothing to say if they call the person who has committed himself to serving his nation a dictator."

Erdogan accused protesters of undermining democracy in Turkey.

He declared that 89 police vehicles, 42 private cars, four buses, and 94 businesses were destroyed by the "vandalism" of the recent unrest.

"Unfortunately, we have been witnessing undesired incidents, attacks, and provocations over the past few days," he said. "We are once again experiencing the traps that in the past used to threaten governments and create chaotic scenes in order to pave the way for interventions against democracy."

His comments come as more skirmishes broke out in Ankara on June 2, with police unleashing tear gas at several thousand protesters who tried to march toward Erdogan's office from the city's main square.

WATCH: Street Battles Continue In Turkish Capital
Street Battles Continue In Turkish Capital
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Hundreds of protesters also reoccupied Istanbul's Taksim Square, where the situation has calmed since violent protests first broke out there on May 31.

The unrest began after protests against plans to allow construction in a park near Taksim, which is one of Istanbul’s few remaining green areas.

A subsequent harsh police crackdown on demonstrators prompted dozens of protests across the country.

Many protesters, who waved flags and chanted "Government, resign!" and "Istanbul is ours, Taksim is ours!" called for Erdogan's resignation.

Turkish officials said 26 police and 53 civilians were injured in the police crackdown, although rights groups have put the number of injured in the hundreds.

More than 1,000 people have also been detained by police.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP
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