ISTANBUL, Turkey, June 11 (UPI) -- Turkish riot police used water cannons and fired tear gas at protesters in Istanbul's Taksim Square Tuesday to disperse the gathering, officials said.
The police also removed banners and flags from the Ataturk statue and the Ataturk Cultural Center center, city Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters.
"The banners were "upsetting the public, as well as harming Turkey's image abroad," the Hurriyet Daily News quoted him as saying. He told reporters a number of protesters had been detained but did not specify the exact number.
Police used tear gas and water cannons against a handful of protesters but the majority retreated to Gezi Park, the newspaper said. At least two people were injured.
Some protesters said undercover police infiltrated the crowd to inflame the situation and incite violence, something Mutlu denied, the paper said.
In Ankara, clashes erupted between police and thousands of protesters, the Dogan News Agency reported.
"What were we supposed to do? Kneel in front of these people and ask them to remove the banners? How would those illegal rags be removed from public buildings? ... The hotels in Taksim are now 8 percent empty, the shopkeepers in Taksim are suffering -- except the beer sellers. This is intervening with others' freedom," Erdogan told a meeting before the ruling Justice and Development Party when asked to comment on the morning's events, Hurriyet said.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said Monday Erdogan plans to meet Wednesday with representatives of the protesters to discuss the situation, Today's Zaman reported.
Protests erupted in the famed Istanbul square two weeks ago after the government announced plans to build a shopping complex in the Gezi Park complex. Police use of excessive force to disperse demonstrators sparked public outrage, leading to calls for Erdogan to step down. Three people have been killed and thousands injured since protests began, Turkish media reported.