Sunday, 16 June 2013

Night of Violence: Police Repression and the People's Response

Yesterday afternoon PM Erdogan announced that Gezi Park should be cleared by sunday, or otherwise the police would do it. It was yet another lie. Only a few hours later police forces stormed Gezi Park in a well prepared coup. Everything was already prepared to clear the park in short time. And so it happened. It was saturday, and many families with kids were in the park. They were attacked as well, just like everyone else as left liberal journalist Can Dündar reports.

Whatever the intention of this brutal attack was, it unleashed a response by the people that was massive as well - and it is hard to see how Erdogan and the government foresaw that his response. Within hours the situation got completely out of hand and it is difficult to give an assessment of what happened last night. All over Turkey people took the streets, many thousands in most bigger cities. And there are many announced demonstrations all over the country today. There was a meme showing an older woman with a sledge and the text: "You know your government fucked up when your grandma starts to riot". Well, now probably the government should start to analyze what it did, after hundreds of thousands spontaneousl took the street on a saturday night to fight police violence all night. While the clashes erupted and reached full intensity, however, Governor Mutlu was still talking about a few "marginal" groups; later he claimed to policemen had been shot with guns - no proof for that has been delivered of course and who, after all these lies, is still to believe him? (account of these lies and the accompanying strategy can be found here and here and here) The tone became rougher that night and EU Minister Egemen Bagis announced that everyone trying to get to Taksim would be viewed as a terrorist.

People from all over Istanbul took the streets as well and tried to march towards Taksim - the square was blocked by the police, but all around Taksim violent clashes erupted and once again the city was drowned in tear gas. People from Kartal, which is about 25 km (!) from Taksim started to march towards Taksim on the E-5 motorway. It is unclear if they actually reach the area, but they have at least reached the Bosphorus bridge after a 20 km walk through the Asian side of Istanbul. On the European side people from Gazi mahallesi (see this article on more information about Gazi) started to march towards taksim as well. Along the way the crowd grew bigger and bigger and was reported at one point to contain up to 25 000 people - but that was still far away from Taksim and they made it at least to Sisli, just north of Taksim.

Police violence had no limits yesterday. 2 MP's of the CHP were beaten up, one has a broken nose, one a broken arm. Co-party chair of the German Greens Claudia Roth was in Gezi Park with the peaceful protesters and came under attack as well. With many other she fled to Divan Oteli and when the police entered the lobby of the hotel and shot some teargas in the hotel, she was exposed to it as well, as this picture, that has been circulating via social media shows. A Russian journalist has been beaten up and been detained by the police. A full account of all the injured from last night cannot be given, nobody knows how many there are.

A safe indicator for how out of control the situation was that the military seemingly started to get involved. It is unclear why they entered the conflict and who called them for what purpose. But there is clear evidence that some TOMA's (water cannons) of the Jandarma, which is a military unit that was mainly used in Kurdish regions, supported the police. And there is also evidence that some military vehicles with soldiers were out on the streets. (Sirri Süreyya Önder has posted three pictures on facebook with the comment: This is not 1980. This is last night. Also today units of the Jandarma seem to be taking the street in order to supports the police, as there shown gathering in Mecidiyeköy in this video. What this means is unclear. Probably it can be understood as a threat, but it should also be viewd as an indication of the enormity of the protest - obviously police forces do not suffice anymore.

As for the future: Action will continue from oth sides. Taksim Solidarity called for a march to Taksim at 4 pm today, but marches of the poeple have already begun again. There have been even some minor clashes reported this morning. DISK and KESK are discussing strike measures, but after KESK announced that it will go on strike if Gezi Park is attackd a call for a general strike on Monday is to be expected. In the meantime the AKP wants to gather its followers in a suburb of Istanbul today as well. History is radically open, and at the moment everything to a complete escalation with civil war liek athmosphere doesn't sem to be off the charts.

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