In all the clashes I witnessed – whether it was in Madrid, in Lisbon or in Istanbul – I have always had the pleasure to encounter Brandon Jourdan in the first line. As dauntless cameraman for globaluprisings.org, he has produced yet another valuable documentary together with his better half, Marianne Maeckelbergh. For everyone who wants to know what happened at Gezi Park, this 30 minute video is a must see.
[Spanish translation here]
Istanbul, July 9
Gezi Park was officially re-opened for the public yesterday afternoon. Too bad the square was closed so nobody could get there. Authorities had lined up a ridiculous amount of police in Taksim, and they didn’t lose any time to attack the people who assembled there between six and seven o’ clock. So once again, it was going to be a night of clashes.
After a month in Istanbul, you learn the basics about urban resistance. Let me fill you in.
First, organisation. Generally, people go in groups, or cells, of say six to twelve people with a certain affinity. Each cell is divided into buddies. Hook up with one other person. Look out for that person and don’t lose him or her. A number of cells together can form a cluster. These clusters may or may not have a political, social or football fan affiliation. They can be distinguished by flags, t-shirts or certain colours. Different clusters form a crowd. A crowd operates in a battle theatre, which is usually a neighbourhood.
Second, equipment. Standard gear for urban resistance in Turkey includes a gas mask, a helmet and goggles. If you don’t have a mask, use a scarf or a mouth cap. The best and definitely the coolest protection against tear gas, is the crocodile mask, the one that covers your entire head, featuring two looking glasses and a snout. Additionally, bring water, sandwiches, and a smartphone. Use the phone for quick updates on the situation. There exist certain apps for Google maps which allow you to report and check the deployment of police.
Within each cell there should be at least one ‘medic’, who carries remedies against tear gas. To this effect, people use stomach tablets dissolved in water. Fill up a spray can for quick and easy use. Other remedies include lemons and vinegar. Vinegar is mostly applied on the inside of your mouth cap or scarf, to ease the effects of the gas.
For advanced clashing, some people bring gloves to throw back tear gas cannisters, picks to open up the pavement, paint bombs in the form of balloons, bottles or light bulbs for use against vehicles and police shields (a very important target is the camera next to the water cannon). On certain occasions, specialised cells may also bring rudimentary shields, sticks, sling-shots, flash bangs, lasers and molotovs.
Yesterday, the confrontations lasted for seven hours. I was on the ground with our streamer to report from the theatre that saw the fiercest clashes. Istiklal Street, as usual.
I have to admit, even urban resistance starts to become dull after a while. For the first few hours there was not much going on except for chanting, running, taking cover, and coming back. Water cannons and minipanzers – so-called ‘scorpions’ – kept patrolling the main street, blasting tear gas and chemical water into the side streets, with police units regularly entering the alleys to hunt for protesters.
At a certain point, as the evil storm troopers appeared from the gas cloud in the backstreets, we took cover in a shopping mall. Someone comes up to us. “Are you guys doing the livestream?”
“I was watching that.”
The man works in a shop that sells #OccupyGezi t-shirts among other gadgets. He supplies us with water and wishes us luck as we go back into action.
After dark, things become more exciting. The crowd has shrunk. Those who remain, are dedicated to continued resistance. They gather stones and bottles wherever they can and launch them at the water cannons and the scorpions as they pull up at the end of the street.
When things settle down a bit we take a break for tea. The owner of the tea house was following the livestream as well. He is a former police officer. He says he has been to the square to talk with the cops, and he was appalled by their ignorance. They have no idea what they are legally allowed to do. Many of them are freshmen acting like mad dogs. “If the repression goes on like this, I will take to the streets as well.”
Late at night, Istiklal bears all the likes of a battlefield. At a few hundred meters from the square, people have deconstructed a building site and turned it into two barricades. One of them is set ablaze. Over the full length of the street, the flames are rising high. Someone walks around with a megaphone, blasting the theme of Star Wars. Behind the other barricade, people take cover as police move in.
What surprises me tonight is the presence of children. Young boys, maybe nine or ten years old. They are having the time of their lives, burning heaps of trash, shouting slogans against fascism, and throwing stones. In between the crowd, one of them goes around selling coffee and tea.
We are tired at this point. It’s two in the morning. But police are more tired than we are. They attack with heavy use of tear gas, they defy the rocks, they disperse the crowd, and they clear the barricades. But they don’t have the energy to pursue.
They leave us in control of the street. Most of them have retreated. So we advance to Taksim. There is only a token police presence left in the square. And the park is open. For real. Earlier on, people had been evicted from it, but now they’re back.
It’s the first time in over three weeks that I enter Gezi. Around the fountain, a few hundred people have gathered to celebrate. They make music, they sing partisan songs, they dance. Everywhere, new trees, new grass, and new flowerbeds have been planted. The bulldozers that were used to start the destruction of Gezi at the end of May, were the same ones that were used to bring in the sand and the earth for its revival a few weeks later. It’s a testimony to the victory of the people.
But victory comes with a price. Thousands of people have been wounded, dozens of them seriously. A 17 year old is in critical condition after having been hit by a tear gas cannister, yesterday. In total, five people have died.
In honour to them, without distinction of whose side they were on, a small memorial is unveiled in the early morning, consisting of five tiles bearing their names, placed on the grass, with candles.
Gezi park has been saved. But the Turkish uprising is not about Gezi Park alone. It’s about people who overcome their fear, who start to realise that there are no real differences between them, and that ultimately, they hold the power to shape their own destiny. They are not subjects to anyone, they are citizens. And as such, they continue to gather in their own public spaces every night around the country, to create a new way of doing politics, based on human values, a new way of living together, based on mutual respect. On some level, conscious or not, they understand that humanity needs a fundamental change, a revolution, in order to survive without descending into barbarism.
Gezi park, the successful resistance against the construction of a shopping mall in favour of trees, has become a very powerful symbol of this understanding.
[Spanish translation here]
Istanbul, June 27
One of my primary objectives when I arrived at Gezi Park almost three weeks ago, was to leave a map of this place, for the historical record. The reason is obvious. Temporary Autonomous Zones are highly evanescent. You have to catch them straight away.
I started my geographical explorations the day after my arrival. Almost a week later, just before the final attack began, I had only just finished mapping the last neighbourhood of downtown. If I had had more time, I could have done a better job, but the amount of data I collected was enough to create a ‘Historical Atlas of Gezi Park’, which I here proudly present to you.
The Atlas consists of six maps.
One is a general overview of the ‘administrative’ subdivisions of the park.
Two is a detailed road map of Gezi Republic with residential zones and infrastructure.
Three is an approximate indication of the various neighbourhoods by their social or political nature.
Four is a map of the greater Gezi Commune with surroundings, suburbs and barricades.
Five is a map of ‘Gezi Empire’, the complete territory in central Istanbul which was conquered by the people in the battles that raged from May 31 to June 3.
Six is a Google map of all known Popular Forums in Istanbul that sprouted up after the eviction of the park.
For a better understanding of the nature of Gezi Park, I will give some background on the maps.
Maps one and two
The germ of Gezi Republic, the place where it all began, was at the tip of downtown, in the Gezi Garden (6). This is where a few dozen people from Taksim Solidarity gathered on May 28 to defend the park against destruction. They put up tents. They organized cultural events. They read books in front of riot police.
For three nights in a row, they got peppersprayed and brutally evicted. Their tents were set on fire and the park was fenced off by police. In response to this, the people of Istanbul rose up.
Starting on May 31, a crowd of 100.000+ people marched on Taksim Square from all sides. It was the beginning of a four day battle. On June 1, police retreated from the square. Gezi Park was liberated, and colonization began.
The park is divided into three.
Uptown is made up of the main platform facing Taksim square. It housed almost exclusively political stands and a Kurdish corner.
Midtown features a central rectangle, like a bath tub, flanked by an elevated East and West side. The Central Park was a mix of residential zones and socio-political stands. It’s characterised by the big square with the Fountain (10) and the children’s Castle (9).
The East Side is mainly residential. As a livestreaming collective, we had our base camp on the Upper East Side, at the intersection of Tenth Avenue and Second Street (14). For me personally, my secondary base was the International Corner, which I co-founded on Fourth Street (15). This area, the Lower East Side, was the core of the park, both logistically and politically. It housed the Commons, the Infirmary, the Kitchen, the Çapulçu Cafe and the Radio (1,2,3,4,12). It was also home to the Stage (11), which was controlled by Taksim Solidarity (17).
The West side was dominated by the fixed structured of what used to be a cafe, and what was turned into the Television studio of Çapulçu TV once it was occupied (13). Behind it, there was a natural border in the form a Grand Canyon leading down to the reconstruction site of Taksim square. Compared to the rest of the park, the far West Side was made up of slums.
At the border between the central square and downtown, a Memorial had been erected in honour of those who died (16). It consisted of the text ‘Taksim to the People’, dotted with candles that were lit every evening at nightfall.
Downtown differs from the rest of Gezi Park because of the organic layout of the streets as opposed to the rational Roman/American style city grid in Midtown. The heart of Downtown was entirely taken up by the central Warehouse (5), which collected and distributed all necessary medical, food and other supplies that were donated by the people of Istanbul and the rest of the world. Main features of Downtown, aside from the Victory garden, were the Library (7), built in the form of a fortress, and the Mosque (8), made from two party tents. At the exit of the park behind the Library there was also a subway station.
Much more difficult than plotting the basic structures of the park, is plotting the nature of the neighbourhoods. This has everything to do with the complicated divisions and subdivisions of the Turkish left. My brother Naber tried to explain to me which are the major and minor parties and how they relate to each other, but it’s a mess. You don’t just have communists and socialists, you have marxists, leninists, maoists, stalinists, trotskyists etc. And that’s not even it. You have different sorts of trotskyists, different sorts of leninists, etc. etc. They used to hate each other more than anything else, but they were all together represented at Gezi Park. There’s no point in trying to classify them all. I don’t understand. You wouldn’t understand. And besides, they are all ‘oldthink’. The miracle of Gezi Park was exactly that it went beyond old differences to create a new paradigm.
The communists and the socialists were concentrated mostly in the Central Park, in Uptown and on the Lower West Side. Still, the majority of left wing political stands were located in Taksim Square, until the battle of June 11. The importance of Taksim for the Turkish left wing is enormous, especially since the Taksim Square Massacre on May Day 1977, when snipers opened fire on the crowd from the surrounding buildings and around forty people were killed. Now, during the Gezi Commune, the surrounding buildings were plastered with revolutionary slogans and images of partisan leaders, whose life and memory has always been persecuted by the government.
Even more significant than the presence of the left wing in Gezi Park was the presence of the nationalists. They participated in wide scale resistance against the government for the first time, because they see Erdogan as a danger for the secular Turkish state founded by their iconic hero Mustafa Kemal, ‘Atatürk’. Images of Atatürk, and the Turkish flag, are a fundamental characteristic of the uprising.
There was nationalist presence everywhere in the park. It was curious to see them next to the Mosque in downtown. They also had a small presence in the slums of the Upper West Side, right next to the Kurds. In the final days of Gezi, they colonised the Upper East Side along First Street.
The presence of the (anticapitalist) Muslims in Gezi Park was important to debunk claims by the government that the people in Gezi were no more than a bunch of drunken hooligan terrorists who like to organise bacchanalia in the country’s mosques without taking their shoes off. The Muslims had their political base on the platform in Uptown and their religious base around the Mosque in Downtown.
The Kurds came to Gezi only after their leader Öcalan exhorted them to do so, and then still, they stayed in a corner. For the first time ever they could raise images of their leader without all hell breaking loose. Not everyone in the park was happy with their presence, but nobody made a fuzz about it.
Ecologists, gays and other special interest groups had their main basis in upper Central Park.
Another miracle of Gezi – most astounding for some – was the fact that it brought supporters from the three rival football teams of Istanbul together. Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş. They stood as one against police. They stood as one at the barricades. A few weeks earlier, they would have passionately fought each other, and now you could buy t-shirts of ‘Istanbul United’ in the park, with the logos of all three teams.
Finally, the anarchists. They had a strong presence in Downtown, near Gezi gardens, and on the platform in Uptown. But on a subconscious level they embodied the spirit of the park as a whole, for two reasons. One, occupation itself is an anarchist practice, even if it isn’t pronounced. Gezi Park, the Gezi Commune was an anarchist experiment. And two, anarchism is the only political theory that isn’t hopelessly outdated. The communists and the socialists at Gezi Park represented the past. The nationalists and the Muslims represented the present. The anarchists represented the future.
Maps four and five
The Gezi Republic and Taksim Square were only a small part of the greater Gezi Empire, more commonly known as the ‘Gezi Commune’. The entire area under popular control from June 3 to June 11 went from the end of Istiklal street down to the Beşiktaş stadium and up to the panoramic terrace of the Hilton Hotel.
To picture this, bear in mind the geographical configuration of central Istanbul. Taksim Square is on a hill. And Gezi park is like a fortress on a hill. After the people conquered the square on June 1, clashes with police continued for two more days on the roads leading down to the waterfront. These clashes were spearheaded by Çarşı, the anarchist hard core of the Beşiktaş fans, aided by Kurds and transsexuals.
On June 3, police forces were beaten back to the prime minister’s weekend office in the Dolmabahçe palace on the shore of the Bosphorus. The insurgents conquered one bulldozer, two water cannons and three police buses (which they burned and used as barricades), plus countless shields, gear, gas masks and police cars. In the evening of June 3, the Gezi Commune was a fact.
At its height, the Commune encompassed, at the very least, one university (with two campuses), one high school, two hospitals, one cultural centre, one library, one convention centre, two mosques (not including the one in Gezi Park), two churches, seven consolates (upgraded to full scale embassies for the occasion) and eight luxury hotels.
Suburbs of Gezi park (in light green), with tents or stands, were located in Taksim Square to the south, in the park between the Divan and Hyatt hotels in the north, next to the Technical University in the northeast, and on the hill opposite the Beşiktaş stadium in the east.
The defense of the Gezi Commune depended on the barricades. Three of these were made up of burned police buses. One on the East side of the park, one next to the Intercontinental, where the mobile toilets were placed, and one between the Technical University and the Hyatt hotel.
By far the most barricades, twenty-three lines in total between main and supply barricades, were located on the roads leading down to the sea, where the battle had taken place. Aside from those, all exits to Taksim had been barred, except for Istiklal street. It was a fundamental weak spot in the defense of the Commune, but it was necessary to have a life line through which ambulances, garbage trucks and supply vehicles could enter. To this effect, the barricades on the northeast side could be opened, so that the wounded from the infirmary could be quickly evacuated.
The barricades were manned twenty four hour a day, mostly by anarchist football fans, but also by communists and nationalists. The easternmost suburb of Gezi, opposite the Beşiktaş stadium, was home to dozens of people who acted as an early warning system in case of a police attack from Dolmabahçe palace.
To illustrate how life went on as normal, even in the complete absence of authorities, I will refer a little anecdote as it was told to me by my brother Naber.
One day during the Commune, a distinguished guest of the Intercontinental Hotel had to rush urgently to the airport. Unfortunately for him, the entire Gezi Empire was a traffic free zone because of the barricades. No taxi cabs could arrive at the hotel. The employees of the Intercontinental kindly asked the anarchists on guard to open the barricade so that their guest could leave.
The anarchists refused. In response, the direction of the hotel proposed a deal. “If you open the barricade, we will help you put it back into place afterwards.”
Generally, anarchists are not unreasonable people. They accepted. The barricade was opened. The cab pulled up. The distinguished guest rushed off, and the employees of the Intercontinental Hotel helped to rebuild the barricade on their doorstep.
The Gezi Empire came to an end when police invaded through Istiklal Street on June 11. Another of the luxury hotels, the Divan, aided the protesters by opening their doors to the wounded. For four more days, the people held the park, until the final invasion on Saturday evening, June 15.
In the days that followed, the entire centre of Istanbul was shrouded in tear gas again, and authorities began making mass arrests of the people who had led the resistance two weeks earlier. On June 17, when twenty-two people of Çarşı collective had been arrested in their houses, a small group of citizens came together in the stone theater of Abbasağa park in Beşiktaş to discuss about what to do next.
The day after, their numbers had swollen enough to fill the theater. The day after that, the whole park was cramped with people, and other popular forums were being organized in parks all over Istanbul.
Within a week, Gezi Park was everywhere. I put together all the fifty odd known forums into a Google map, based on the information available on June 25. And this is only the beginning. Just now, a spontaneous assembly popped up on our doorstep…
[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.
[Spanish translation here]
Istanbul, June 15, 1412 hrs.
In only a few days, the word ‘chapulling’ has taken international vocabulary by storm. Stemming from Turkish çapulcu, roughly meaning ‘looters’, it was used by prime minister Erdogan on June 2 to describe the people who had occupied Gezi Park. Instead of taking offense, it was immediately reappropriated by the protesters, who now proudly identify as ‘chapullers’. Almost overnight, the meaning of the word has changed from looters to rebels.
The Gezi Park television channel is called Çapul TV (capul.tv). One of the places distributing free coffee, tea and snacks all day and all night is the Çapulcu Cafe. I met a Dutch-Turkish compatriot there from Rotterdam. He has occupied Gezi since the beginning. He is unable to contain his enthusiasm and he makes no effort to do so.
He shows me the supplies. All day, vans full of goods park at the kitchen. To allow for them to arrive up here the barricade down the road has been turned into a checkpoint. Some of the food coming in is home made by the Turkish mothers. Other articles are ordered from around the world, to be delivered at ‘Gezi Park, Istanbul’. Every time a van pulls up there are cheers, and a human chain spontaneously forms to pass everything to the storage depot. The same cheers can be heard when a garbage truck arrives, and the same line forms to take out the common trash.
My friend also explains a thing or two about Turkish politics, about the Erdogan regime, about his allergy to criticism, about his small steps toward dictatorship. Like the denial to recognise Alevi prayer houses as sanctuaries with the same status as a mosque, the ban on alcohol sales after 10 pm, the naming of the new Bosphorus bridge after sultan Mehmed II, known for conquering Constantinople but also for persecuting religious minorities, the intervention in family affairs by stating that women should bear at least three children, the ties with big business, the control of the media, etc. The intended destruction of Gezi Park was only the last drop. It brought the Turkish nation together. Religious and not, left wing, right wing and kemalists, Turks and Kurds and the rest of the world. They are all chapullers, chapulling all day long.
In talking about the first days of the rebellion, my Dutch Turkish comrade recalled some of the stories that will be legend. Like the ones about the water cannons and the bulldozer that were captured by the Besiktas fans. At a certain point they were so fed up with the helicopter hovering overhead and dropping cluster tear gas bombs that they painted a heli landing pad on the pavement and put out a tweet, calling for someone with experience in flying a chopper…
What I found interesting is that even a Dutch Turk was very sensitive about the Kurdish question. He consistently referred to their space as ‘Eastern Turkey’ and to Kurdish guerrillas as ‘terrorists’. Still, Kurdish people are an integral of Occupy Gezi. They have their own corner next to the steps leading down to Taksim, where they proudly exhibit the image of their imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan, not far from the Turkish nationalists’ stand and the images of Atatürk.
When the rebellion began, the Kurds were reluctant to show up, because of the sensitivities surrounding them in Turkey. But then, from prison, Öcalan was reported as saying that “if this is a democratic movement, then we have to be a part of it.” So here they are, in solidarity.
Notwithstanding the constant threat of invasion and the ongoing persecution of dissent, yesterday was a day of celebration throughout the park. Twice in a row, Erdogan had issued an ultimatum for protesters to leave or face violent eviction. And twice in a row the attack was called off as the place was packed with people all night. It meant defeat for the government. And victory for us.
At night, not even a tropical cloud-burst could temper our spirits. When it came pouring down people were singing and dancing in the puddles, chanting “Get wet! Get wet! If you don’t get wet, you’re Tayyip Erdogan!” Further down, in Taksim square, the pianoman defied the tempest and kept playing for the third night in a row, to the delight of rebels and police officers alike.
A common sight at Gezi, every day, are the photographers and the television crews. And me, giving in to vanity, I had myself interviewed by Spanish public television for a change. It was a good occasion to brag about my role in the Spanish Revolution, and about how we as GlobalRev tactical media team were invited to share our livestreaming expertise with the Turks. It was also a good occasion to talk about the differences between the uprisings in Spain and Turkey.
For one, the Turks had to fight to conquer their spaces, whereas the Spanish movement was founded on non-violence. For two, the Spanish indignados developed a fetish for assemblies and working groups right from the start, while popular self organisation is only slowly taking root here in Turkey. Yesterday, however, there were simultaneous neighbourhood assemblies being held all over Gezi. I counted five. Two in downtown, two in midtown, and one in uptown. There was also an assembly of Taksim Solidarity, but that one didn’t count. It was held in a closed space and it’s wasn’t accessible for all.
These days there is a sense of rebellion on the rise against the original organisers, because of their apparent lack of democratic openness. To the outside world, they speak for Gezi, but they do not represent us. Still I’m willing to admit that this has not necessarily been a bad thing. Full Spanish style horizontal democracy gives everyone the possibility to speak and participate, but it hardly ever leads to any practical results.
Taksim Solidarity started this movement and gave it a voice. It has issued a handful of clear, rational demands. Now it is up to us, the people, to prevent them from becoming some kind of institution or – Allah forbid – authority.
[Spanish translation here]
Istanbul, June 15, 1032 hrs
First they came after the lawyers. Then they came after the doctors. Now they come after the journalists. Let me fill you in.
Four days ago fifty lawyers were arrested because they protested the brutal repression of the Turkish revolt. Two days ago, the minister of Health warned that it is illegal for doctors and medical personnel to provide assistance to the wounded in Gezi Park’s infirmaries, and that they are at risk of losing their license.
Yesterday, the Turkish Medical Association reacted with a press release, saying that “It is not a crime to treat the wounded, in fact it is a crime not to.” They added that it must also have been a crime to set up volunteer infirmaries after the earthquakes that hit Turkey in 1999 and 2011, which caused more than 20.000 victims.
Since the beginning of the uprising authorities are trying to force hospitals to release personal data of wounded people, with the intention of blacklisting them for taking part in demonstrations. The Turkish Medical Association has refused to collaborate with this.
Now, it’s the journalists’ turn. Yesterday a Russian reporter was arrested by undercover cops in Taksim for taking photos. It was caught on film. In the evening, an Israelian comrade who has been livestreaming here for days suddenly disappeared while returning to the camp to change batteries. We have been trying to locate him all night. We were on the verge of requesting assistance from the Mossad, but luckily, this morning, our comrade turned up. No need for foreign intervention yet. Unless Putin suddenly cares about the wellbeing of Russian journalists.
Chilling news comes from Ankara, too. Ethem Sarısülük, the man who died two days ago after having sustained critical injuries was probably killed by live ammunition. Authorities are trying to cover it up, as they didn’t allow the family’s attorney to witness the autopsy. The crime was recorded on a street security camera, the killer has been transferred, his identity hasn’t been disclosed. The family has denounced the police force for murder and tempering with evidence. At the same time, in a most disgusting gesture, the mayor of Ankara had a banner raised in the park where Ethem was hit. It said ‘Precious Turkish police, Ankara is proud of you’.
Considering all this, we can not possibly stop the protest and go home because mr. Erdogan made a vague promise of referendum. This morning, Taksim Solidarity, the nucleus of the Gezi Park protest that does not officially represent anyone, announced that this is only the beginning.
“On the 18th day of resistance, Saturday June 15, we keep standing on guard as Taksim Solidarity for the park and all the living things it contains, for our city, our trees, our living spaces, our private lives, our freedoms and our future.”
[Spanish translation here]
Istanbul, June 14, 1201 hrs.
Every revolution needs its heroes. Ours is called Davide. He is the pianoman.
Yesterday and tonight he has been playing in Taksim for twelve hours straight, until ten o’ clock in the morning. When the rain started, people held a canvas over him and his piano, and he continued to play. ‘Imagine’, ‘Let it be’, ‘We are the World’, ‘Bella Ciao’, etc. etc. Fifty meters away there was a row of police buses and water cannons ready for the final attack. On the other side, candles were burning in honour of the people who died in the protest.
Throughout the night, livestreamers had to work in shifts to cover the marathon. People from around the world were touched by so much beauty. Messages of solidarity kept pouring in from every inhabited continent.
Davide is a Sicilian who lives in Germany. He came here with his piano on a truck to defend Gezi park. “This is what I can do,” he told me afterwards, “it’s not much, but it’s loud.” He intends to resist until the threat on the park is lifted.
That threat was reiterated earlier in the day by prime minister Erdogan. He appealed to the Turkish mothers to take their children out of the park, because things could turn very ugly.
In response, the Turkish mothers showed up to form a human chain around Gezi in support of their children. Afterwards, they swirled through the park by the hundreds, harvesting applause wherever they went.
The threat of brutality didn’t stop the people from gathering in the park. Once again, the place was packed by citizens of all ages determined to resist.
At the moment, Gezi is surrounded by police on all sides. In anticipation of an attack, the neighbourhood assemblies have taken extraordinary measures of defense. Everywhere, buckets of water have been placed, to drown out the tear gas cannisters. Giant Turkish flags and images of Atatürk have been raised to discourage the aggressors. Super strong laser beams were flashing from the walls of our fortress, ready to blind police forces should they receive the order to advance. And surely, we will be able to count on our elite troops, with their capacity to build barricades and launch rocks, fireworks, molotovs, and who knows what else.
During the night the prime minister met with two people from Taksim Solidarity to offer a referendum on Gezi park, but few of the Turks still trust him. Besides, this protest is not about the park anymore. It’s about human rights and freedom. Erdogan has to go.
Today, people will talk about the offer and about the future of the protest. Assemblies are taking shape, very slowly. Next to the neighbourhoods, there is the Taksim Solidarity assembly and one of independents who don’t feel represented by them. In Izmir, a General Assembly of the entire camp was organized yesterday. In Ankara, the clashes continue.
In support of them, people were chanting a modified version of one of their most cherished slogan. “Everywhere is Ankara, everywhere is resistance.”