This morning at 7:30, police entered Taksim Square as the governor posted on Twitter that they would “clean up” and “organize” the square because, according to him, it looks so ugly to tourists, it’s marring İstanbul’s reputation internationally. He also gave assurances that the park itself would not be touched.
They police came in full riot gear, with several riot control vehicles. Suddenly, a group of masked individuals appeared in the middle of the square and threw several molotov cocktails at the police vehicles. The response to this small group seemed intentionally scant, so much so that the pressurised water didn’t even hit its target (see photo). One of the riot control vehicles started burning, and though it is known that it has an automatic extinguishing system, the fire continued to burn. This was possibly for the sake of giving good visuals to the Turkish mainstream press which was present with multiple cameras this morning, despite having been missing for days previously.
At a televised press conference later, the governor of Istanbul claimed that the operation was successfully performed with ‘support’ from those in the park, once again adding that the park would be left untouched. This blatant lie suggests that they wished to divide and rule this movement, which they haven’t been able to so far despite the heterotopic constitution of the crowds.
Only a few hours later, at 1PM, the press conference of the Taksim Solidarity group in front of the steps of the park was attacked by riot police, with tear-gas as well as plastic bullets. The governor also noted in his speech that part of the police force would work to deal with those who ‘subverted the perceptions of people’ and caused this movement through social media sites.
During the morning, the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a speech at a meeting with members of parliament from the AK Party in Ankara. He repeated the misinformation about the treatment of women wearing headscarves and the mosque that was turned into a first aid center, and dwelled on the wrongs that were done to him, his party, and his constituents in the past several decades. He ended by saying, “This issue has come to an end, we can not tolerate any more of it.”
At around 2 PM, the riot police were reinforced and approximately 100 of them attempted to enter the park. Many tear gas canisters were thrown inside, and though there were many wounded, people stayed calm. Eventually, the protestors walked towards the incoming police force and pushed them out of the park.
The heating up of the events today suggests that Erdoğan is preparing for his counter-rallies planned for this weekend, an attempt to deliver on his declaration to bring out “200,000 people” for 20 opposition protesters. It should be obvious to all that this will not end well.
Currently the square is still resisting, many riot control vehicles are still present and the violence is far from over. Oh, and to end on a funny note, Erdoğan suggested during his speech that sidewalks are nature too. I guess this explains a lot.
I am sure I’m missing out on some details. Our hearts are heavy but our spirits will not be broken. This is just the beginning, continue resisting! Please keep following #DirenGeziParkı,#DirenGeziSeninleyiz, #DirenAnkara, #DirenTaksim, and #TaksimHepimizin.
Photo by Adnan Onur Acar (NarPhotos).