May 31 / Jun 1 , 2013
There are 40,000 people crossing from Asia to Europe on a bridge across the Bosphorus. According to tweets they are joining protesters in Istanbul. These protesters occupied Gezi park for days, battling police in riot gear. Many were injured and there are reports of people having been killed.
Turkey has been engulfed by a series of protests across several cities after riot police turned Istanbul’s busiest city centre hub into a battleground, deploying tear gas and water cannon against thousands of peaceful demonstrators…Following several days of dawn police raids on the protesters seeking to occupy Gezi park on Taksim Square in Istanbul city centre, the clashes escalated violently, leaving more than 100 people injured, several of them seriously.Police went on the rampage against protesters who had been sitting reading books and singing songs.
People are angry and frustrated at the government’s decision to build a shopping centre at the expense of one of Istanbul’s most famous parks. But what started as a protest against the uprooting of trees is turning into a wider platform for expressing anger against government policies.
Environmentalists have been joined by gay and lesbian groups, as well as socialists, union workers, members of opposition parties from across the political landscape and even so-called “anti-capitalist Muslims”. The excessive use of force by the riot police and the insistence of the government to pursue their plans for the park have escalated tensions.
_________________________________@myriamonde photo by amnesty intl lawyers taken in front of police hq on Vatan str pic.twitter.com/GhZYoacpT9 #occupygezi________________________________________________
Taksim Square has political significance for the anti-government protests. As part of the reconstruction plans, the square was banned as a venue for this year’s May Day rally and any kind of demonstrations in the future; but now the government’s heavy handed approach risks turning the square into a focal point for protests against its policies.
In a stunning example of hypocrisy the US expressed its “concern” about the events of the last few days:
“We believe that Turkey’s long-term stability, security and prosperity is best guaranteed by upholding the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association, which is what it seems these individuals were doing,” state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.”These freedoms are crucial to any healthy democracy.”
I don’t have to wonder what the folks who tried to hold Zuccotti Park, Oscar Grant Plaza, Dilworth Plaza, Bradley Manning Plaza and the park outside of City Hall in Los Angeles would have to say about these freedoms being crucial to a healthy democracy. Or was Jen Psaki merely observing how unhealthy democracy here in the Unites States has become?One thing is different in Turkey than in the US:
In a sign of the tension, amateur video footage showed Turkish military personnel refusing to help the riot police, as well as handing out gas masks to demonstrators. There were also reports that some of the police had switched sides and joined the protests.
Fri May 31, 2013 at 10:42 PM PT: Another summary of events and circumstances:
On the night of May 27, bulldozers and backhoes rolled into Gezi Park, a tiny island of trees and grass at the center of Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, and started ripping it apart. This was part of a government project to “pedestrianize” the historic square—what that meant in this case, according to many blogs, was turning one of the last open green spaces in the city into a shopping mall. No community organizations or local people were asked what they thought about the plans for the park, devised by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which included rebuilding historical barracks that were demolished in the 1940s and adding sidewalks to make the square more friendly to pedestrians.Four days later, after nonviolent protesters occupied the park and survived attacks by the police that included tear gas and water cannons, they’ve won at least a temporary victory thanks to a court decision. In fact, Istanbul’s mayor, Kadir Topbaş, just announced that there was never any plan to build a mall. It’s an amazing 11th-hour turnaround, but it didn’t happen without a battle.Protesters began gathering in the park as early as Monday, May 27, and word spread through social media as more pro-park, anti-government Turks showed up to sit in front of the bulldozers. By Wednesday, the police were involved, and they responded to the nonviolent protests with aggressive tactics—what really got everyone’s attention was a photo from Reuters showing a young, apparently peaceful environmentalist in a red dress getting pepper-sprayed by a gas-masked cop. That image became a symbol of the “occupation” of Gezi Park, as well as the cops’ terrorization of the protesters.