Protesters and Turkey's prime minister both refused to back down today in what could become the final battle for Istanbul's Taksim Square, the symbol of nationwide grievances against his government. Tens of thousands of protesters returned to the square in the evening, a show of defiance met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons. Their return came hours after riot police had forced their way past improvised barricades to clear the square of protesters occupying the area for the past 12 days.
Hundreds more vowed to continue their sit-in at Taksim's adjacent Gezi Park, despite an order from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for them to leave—an order bolstered by the police show of force. A peaceful demonstration against the park's redevelopment that began more than two weeks ago has morphed into the biggest test of Erdogan's authority in his decade of power. The unrest has spread to 78 cities across the country, with protesters championing their objections to what they say is the prime minister's increasingly authoritarian style.