Saturday Night at Gezi ParkPosted: June 8, 2013
[Spanish translation here]
Istanbul, June 8
Picture this. It’s actually pretty cinematographic. A dungeon with screens. A table with a bottle of coke, a bag of crisps. And a drowsy editor, monitoring the situation. The editor is me. I see one of the screens lighten up. I look and I don’t believe it. I tap on the screen to see if it goes away. It doesn’t. I turn on the sound, and I say: “What the hell. It’s revolution.”
That was over ten days ago. Now picture the Global Revolution newsdesk a week later. Communications strategy reunion. We have streams coming in from Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. The squares are taken. “Right, we have the bird’s eye view of what’s happening. Now we need to send someone in.”
So here I am. Special reporter for Global Revolution in Istanbul. I got here an hour and a half ago, just after dark. And fortunately, I managed to smuggle some badly needed tactical media equipment into the country. A guy who hardly speaks a word of English guides me to the square when I asked him where it was. As we approach it, the crowd gets denser. There’s definitely something happening here. Then we enter Taksim. I cannot possibly describe the emotion. It was magic. I cried.
The square is packed to the brim. There’s music, there’s drumming, there’s shouting and singing. There’s fireworks. A couple is dancing. Another is kissing. A tiny hot air balloon is being launched, with a little fire. It hovers over the crowd. There’s one word written on the balloon. ‘Happiness.’
It’s an act of collective liberation going on right now in Taksim. Like my first night in Sol, it is, in every sense, a revolutionary moment.
And the beat goes on, all over the square and in the surrounding streets. Some people sell fruit, others offer goggles and mouth caps against tear gas. The Guy Fawkes mask is a hit, just like the Turkish flag.
All around Taksim there are barricades pulled up, and they proudly remain. This is probably what the bus driver meant when he said it would be “a problem” to get to Taksim. Two burned busses serve as proud souvenirs of the hard struggle it took to conquer this square.
I meet my brother Memed, who has been broadcasting the events live, from the start, day after day. The man is a hero of the revolution.
He told me crazy stories about the first major battle with police on May 31, when people from all walks of life had come to Taksim to protest against the brutality with which the original protesters had been treated. Over a hundred thousand tear gas cannisters were fired that night. The streets were literally littered with them. At a certain point, police even used helicopters to drop ‘cluster tear gas’ on the people. Finally, police ran out. But the people returned. And they are here. They are celebrating, and shouting for Erdogan to resign.
In the meantime, Erdogan doesn’t give in. In the rest of the country, and especially in the capital Ankara, protesters continue to be brutally attacked and dispersed day after day. Yet every day they return and rebuild or reinforce the barricades.
The only place that is free, and safe from police at the moment, is Taksim square. But the question remains, for how long? Erdogan has said that protesters have until after the weekend, when the stock exchange reopens. It has been crashing hard since the protest began, and that has to stop. So people here are expecting an all out attack on Gezi Park, the day after tomorrow.
Yesterday and today, despite Facebook’s attempts delete the event, the world stood with Gezi Park. I hope the world will bear with us again on Monday morning. We are doing our best to bring you all the details, live.