Barbarian InvasionPosted: June 16, 2013
[Spanish translation here and in comments]
Istanbul, June 16, 1907 hrs.
What we accomplished at Occupy Gezi was a change of paradigm. As human beings we went beyond our petty differences. For once we unconditionally respected each other, and took care of our fellow living beings. Instead of competing, we collaborated. Instead of accumulating, we shared. We tasted the joy of solidarity, and we did for a moment create a better world.
Yesterday, this world came to an end. Just as I was doing geographical explorations to make an elaborate map of this place for the historical record, evil forces moved in to crush it. It was Saturday night. Gezi was as full of people as it had been for days. At ten minutes to nine, police launched a full frontal attack. It’s what you get for feeding the hungry, for treating of the sick, for spreading happiness without a catch.
Water cannons moved in to blast people away from the platform facing Taksim. Tear gas and flash bangs were launched deep into the park. There were families with young children and elderly people who got caught in the dense cloud of gas and smoke. It didn’t take long for police to enter. They lined up at the end of the avenues, they took aim and they fired at the retreating crowd using rattlesnake guns. These are mainly used to scare people. They sound like a light version of machine guns, but the ammo is quite harmless. I got hit on my heel, but was perfectly able to walk on.
It became a rout. As the fumes rose over Gezi, people poured out of the camp on the North side, and we could see the silhouettes of the Empire’s stormtroopers appear out of the haze.
Police had also taken position on the Northwest side, from whence they fired at people as they fled from the park. Many of us found refuge in the Divan hotel, which had opened its doors to be used as a field hospital after last Tuesday’s battle. Next to it, there was an elevated piece of garden which was in effect a suburb of Gezi park, with its own infirmary and kitchen. I didn’t even know it existed, it was the first and last time I saw it. I made a mental note to add it to my map.
I move to the main boulevard going North to join the resistance. We try to raise barricades, but there’s not enough material and not enough time. When some people try to smash up a bank, the crowd gently dissuades them. Among the people in the front line I don’t only see the hardcore clashers. Is see middle aged men and women encouraging us. I see ten year old boys with helmets and gas masks bringing stones for the barricades.
Then the second wave of attack comes. All out tear gas. At every attempt of regrouping, a new salvo of canisters is launched in the middle of the crowd. For hundreds of meters, for miles. At a certain point I get caught up in one of the side streets. From houses all around comes the sound of pots and pans being bashed in our support.
At Osman Bey metro station we keep retreating. Now the water cannons are deployed to speed us up. At the next square we try to regroup. A garbage vehicle tries to block the road for the water cannons, but police continue their advance, launching another gas attack. Hundreds of meters further up the road it seems like people are finally dispersing. In reality, they are connected to the social networks to reorganise. A new meeting point is established at Mecidiyeköy subway station. In small groups we move down there to reinforce the crowd.
We manage to unite enough people for continued resistance. Police are dispersed as well by now. We have to deal with a few dozen officers. For about an hour we hold our ground, despite repeated tear gas attacks. I have so much respect for these people. Especially the women. My god, the women! Maybe they are not half of the crowd, but there are so many of them. And they are so brave. They lead the chants. ‘Everywhere is Taksim! Everywhere is resistance!’ And indeed, it’s true. Tonight, all over Istanbul, all over Turkey, people are on the streets to defend their newly found freedom.
We receive reinforcements. From the North, a fresh crowd comes marching down the street to join us with Turkish flags. A new barricade is erected. The noise is immense. The sound of metal scraping over the pavement as people drag construction materials to the barricade. The chants. The incessant honking of cars in our support. The pots and pans. The flash bangs. The ambulances. The tear gas. It’s a wonderful symphony of revolt.
Police make another frontal attack. As I take a quick whizz I get caught behind enemy lines. So I follow the advancing police troops at a less than safe distance. They use an armoured personnel carrier (APC) to break through the barricades. Hundreds of meters further up, they launch a final attack of tear gas, and that’s it. People are scattered. I turn back.
On the road I encounter small pockets of resistance. I get adopted by a platoon of eight. Everywhere I went, these days, people embrace me as a member of the family. They are grateful that foreigners support their struggle. And me, I’m grateful to be with them.
We descend the streets of Mecidiyeköy. Some lone police units keep throwing tear gas. This neighbourhood features a lot of minorities, including Kurds and Alevis, who are used to clashing with police. This is the first time they get the support of a major part of the population.
Around two, we retreat for the night. Two Armenian friends, brother and sister, take me in to their home, to eat, to sleep, to rest and to communicate to my GlobalRevolution comrades that I’m safe.
The day after, we harvest shreds of news. Clashes have continued all night in Istanbul. Police have tear gassed the hotel where people had found refuge. Water cannons have fired their chemical mixtures inside one of the hospitals. Doctors have been detained for sticking to their Hippocratic oath. During the night, people once again marched over the Bosphorus bridge. Massive arrests are being made. In Ankara, the funeral gathering for the man who was killed with a real bullet is brutally attacked. Police can’t handle the situation any more. Erdogan has called in the National Guard (Jandarma). Military vehicles are moving into Istanbul.
At four in the afternoon, we take the streets again. While the prime minister hires buses and boats to bring his supporters to a Nuremberg style rally and television accuses us of being terrorists and whatnot, the only thing we can do is take the streets and make a lot of noise.
We came close to Taksim before police started another all out counter attack. Now we are back home to wait until the sun goes down. I’m still caught on the wrong side of Taksim. At the moment, Turkey is on fire. Everywhere is resistance. I hope to be able to break through the lines soon, to rejoin my comrades. I’ll let you know.
In the meantime, take care, keep calm, and resist.