A massive cleanup effort was underway early Sunday at an Istanbul park where hours earlier Turkish riot police cleared protesters camped out in what has become ground zero in anti-government demonstrations targeting the policies of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
At least 29 people were injured in clashes Saturday as police sealed off Taksim Square and took Gezi Park, Istanbul Gov. Huseyin Avni Mutlu said in remarks carried on Turkish television stations.
Police pushed protesters onto side streets, where on one street many -- with their faces covered with masks because of tear gas and smoke -- appeared to reorganize.
Chanting "long live Taksim solidarity," the demonstrators began moving back toward the square and park. In turn, authorities fired tear gas and a water cannon down the street to try to disperse them.
The move came after police warned demonstrators who have occupied Istanbul's last remaining green space for more than two weeks to depart voluntarily or face being ejected.
By early Sunday morning, most protesters had dispersed and the cleanup was underway, according to CNN's Arwa Damon, who was reporting in the area.
Calls for political reforms
The protest that began over Erdogan's plan to turn the park into a mall quickly devolved into large anti-government demonstrations that have seen calls for political reforms.
Erdogan, who has been defiant of protest demands, said earlier in the day at a rally with supporters in Ankara that if protesters did not leave on their own, they would be forced out of Gezi Park.
"If it is not emptied, from now on, this country's security forces will know how to empty that place," he said.
A few minutes later, police used loudspeakers to order the protesters out of the park, saying it was their last warning.
But the demonstration continued as the sun began to set, with hundreds of people packing the square, some of them wearing gas masks, others linking arms in solidarity and anticipation.
During his speech, Erdogan said the demonstrators were not meeting him halfway.
"We have reached out with our hands," he said. "However, some people returned their fists in response. Can you shake hands with those who reach out with a fist?"
And he ridiculed the protesters' assertions that they are environmentalists, calling them "thugs" instead, and citing their honking of horns as evidence of their insincerity. "This is called noise pollution," he said.
A dozen of his Justice and Development AK Party buildings have been damaged and burned, he said, accusing "outsiders" of staging the demonstrations.
He accused demonstrators of inciting sectarian violence by attacking a woman who was wearing a headscarf, kicking her, dragging her on the ground and snatching away her head cover. He accused some demonstrators of having entered a mosque while wearing shoes, drunk alcohol there and written insulting slogans on the walls -- acts forbidden by Muslims -- but said authorities had been patient.
Erdogan said the courts will handle such incidents.
He said he did not understand the concerns about the park, since no contracts have been signed and no construction has begun. "There is nothing yet to protest," he said.
'Every kind of hypocrisy'
Erdogan accused social media for spreading misinformation, the national media of lying and the international media of displaying "every kind of hypocrisy" in its reporting, but he expressed gratitude for the crowd's support.
He praised his government's performance over the past 10 years, citing a rising standard of living, a stock market that has broken records, a quintupling of the central bank's reserves, plans to build the world's biggest airport and the construction of a third bridge scheduled to begin carrying traffic in four lanes in either direction over the Bosporus in 2015.
Erdogan said maintaining the park as a green space was not the real goal of most of the demonstrators, four of whom have been arrested.
"What is the issue then?" he asked. "It is to take down the AK Party government."
Except for a few who are genuinely concerned about the environment, the demonstrators are upset about Turkey's growing strength, he said, adding that more than 600 of his police had been wounded in the clashes.