Several cities in Turkey, chiefly Istanbul and Ankara, witnessed violent demonstrations Saturday with tens of thousands of people protesting against the government, though the protesters seem in charge for the moment now that police have retreated from several public squares.

In Istanbul the demonstrations were staged in downtown Taksim Square and the adjoining Gezi Park, while in Ankara thousands of students occupied the centrally located Kizilay Square, where scores of people were injured in clashes with security forces.

The purpose of the Istanbul protests was to prevent one of the few green spaces in the city from being used for a new shopping mall, but the use of tear gas and water cannon to disperse them early Friday set off a pitched battle with police that lasted uninterruptedly until mid-afternoon Saturday.

Around 1,000 people battled cops on Istanbul's main shopping street, Istiklal.

Though the original purpose was to save the park, demonstrators are now asking the government to resign, considering its use of police violence the sign of a dictatorial regime.

The clash with police brought out different elements of society, including numerous young people who for some time have been decrying the government's plan to impose a lifestyle with less leisure, less alcohol and fewer individual liberties, more in line with the Islamist mode of life.

"It's a spontaneous protest in which many middle class people are participating, there is enormous social support," a demonstrator who identified himself only as Ali told Efe. "This is not the work of one party, union or particular organization of the left."

Though for now the protesters seem to have won the battle, no one dares predict what might happen Sunday, whether the government will concede or whether there will be another outbreak of confrontations. EFE