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Turkish premier lashes out at protesters, calls them vandals

Political DissentTurkeyIstanbul (Turkey)Ankara (Turkey)PoliticsActivismRecep Tayyip Erdogan

ANKARA, Turkey — In a series of increasingly belligerent speeches to cheering supporters Sunday, Turkey's prime minister launched a verbal attack on the tens of thousands of anti-government protesters who flooded the streets for a 10th day, accusing them of creating an environment of terror.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the most inflammatory of his speeches as he arrived in the capital of Ankara. Erdogan belittled the protesters, again calling them "capulcu," the Turkish word for looters or vandals. He made his speech in Ankara on an open-top bus, which then drove into the city in a motorcade.

“If you look in the dictionary, you will see how right a description this is,” Erdogan said, speaking to thousands of supporters who greeted him at the airport. “Those who burn and destroy are called capulcu. Those who back them are of the same family.”

Erdogan said his patience was running out with the protesters, who have occupied Istanbul's main Taksim Square for more than a week and have held hundreds of demonstrations in at least 78 cities across the country. The increasingly fiery tone could inflame tensions. On two occasions, including one in the southern city of Adana on Saturday night, clashes have been reported between Erdogan supporters and protesters.

“All they do is to break and destroy, to attack public buildings. … They didn't stop at that,” Erdogan said. “They attacked daughters who wear headscarves. They entered Dolmabahce mosque with their beer bottles and their shoes.”

Some of the injured in the initial clashes in Istanbul's Besiktas area were treated in Dolmabahce mosque. The mosque's imam has denied reports that people entered with beer. In the initial days of the protests, some women said they were verbally harassed. The majority of protesters, however, have denounced those who did it and have been welcoming toward them. Erdogan's comment about shoes refers to the Muslim taboo against wearing shoes inside a mosque.

Anti-government protesters have turned Erdogan's label of them as capulcu into a humorous retort, printing stickers with the word, scrawling it on their tents and uploading music videos onto social network sites.

The nationwide anti-government protests were sparked by outrage over police use of force against an environmental protest in Istanbul's Taksim Square on May 31, and have grown into a general display of discontent toward Erdogan's government.

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