Thousands of Turkish protesters reoccupied Istanbul's Taksim Square Sunday after police withdrew from the area, but the scene was peaceful after days of violent confrontations.
The square was calm Sunday morning, Al Jazeera reported, but protesters began reoccupying the site in the afternoon. They said their fight against the policies of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government is far from over.
Protesters erected makeshift barricades at the entrance to the square, which considered symbolically important by Turkey's leftist political parties and labor movement, CNN reported.
"We're not from any party," one protester wearing a bandana told the BBC. "This is civil resistance. We are really happy. We've won the square."
A sea of protesters from across Turkey's political spectrum were camping out in the square, chanting "Government, Resign!" and "Istanbul is ours, Taksim is ours!" as they celebrated after the police pulled out, Agence France-Presse reported.
Protests on Sunday were not as violent as the past two days but police used tear gas to try to disperse hundreds of people in Ankara's main Kizilay square. There were similar clashes in Izmir and Adana, Turkey's third and fourth biggest cities, Reuters reported.
Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu called on Erdogan Sunday to apologize to people for the excessive use of force against demonstrators, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported.
“One cannot rule against the people. People are the strongest force. He must apologize to the people. I am waiting for that but I don’t know if he will show this merit,” Kılıçdaroğluı told reporters.
Erdogan again defended his actions Sunday.
“[They say] Tayyip Erdoğan is dictator. If they call one who serves the people a dictator, I cannot not say anything,” he said, according to Hurriyet.
Earlier, residents helped with cleaning up some of the debris left by Saturday's battles. Al Jazeera reported burned buses, cars and other debris around the square, with graffiti sprayed across many walls and vehicles.
Riot police pulled back from the square Saturday after fierce battles with protesters.
The protests in Istanbul were mirrored in dozens of other cities, with many carrying on late into Saturday night and Sunday morning. In Ankara, the capital, smashed shop windows were evidence of the previous evening's violence.
More than 1,700 people have been arrested but "a large majority of the detainees were released after being questioned and identified," Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler said in remarks carried by the state-run Anatolia news agency. He said 53 civilians and 26 police were injured. But according to Amnesty Inernational, at least two people have been killed as well.
The Istanbul protest began last Monday as a peaceful sit-in at Gezi Park next to Taksim Square. The demonstrators had been preventing workers from razing some of the 600 trees in the park, the last patch of green in the commercial area, to make way for the restoration of Ottoman-era military barracks.
Residents fear that the barracks will be turned into a shopping mall. Erdogan said Sunday the development plans are not definite yet and could change.
In Syria, where Erdogan is supporting the rebels, the Assad regime seized on the protests, Hurriyet reported.
"The demands of the Turkish people don't deserve all this violence," Syrian television quoted Information Minister Omran Zoabi saying. "If Erdogan is unable to pursue non-violent means, he should resign." "Erdoğan's repression of peaceful protest ... shows how detached he is from reality."