Riot police firing tear gas and water cannons re-entered Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Tuesday night after defiant protesters swarmed back in by the thousands.

It was the latest sign that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government may have run out of patience after 12 days of unrest in Turkey’s largest city and beyond. Earlier in the day, he accused the protesters of sullying Turkey’s image, raising the possibility that he had ordered police to show no restraint in clearing Taksim Square.

In the chaos of a confrontation that began about 8:45 p.m., several fires burned in the square and protesters exploded fireworks, threw stones and waved banners.

As a phalanx of helmeted officers moved forward, water cannons doused a man in a wheelchair carrying a Turkish flag. Plainclothes officers in gas masks yanked down banners.

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