Amid the Chaos of Taksim Square
On Saturday, June 15, riot police fired tear gas, water canons, and rubber bullets effectively clearing Gezi Park in Istanbul of occupiers. Having photographed previous police raids of the park, I was struck by the kind of support and unification...
Screams gave way to the quiet of early morning on June 11. After many days of cheerful protest, the Istanbul police began the “clearance” of Taksim Square. Protesters anticipated such a strike, gas masks in hand. The assault consisted mainly of water canons and tear gas aimed all around the Gezi Park, Taksim Square, and various side streets. That day wouldn’t be the last time security forces raided Taksim Square or Gezi Park. On Saturday, June 15, riot police fired tear gas, water canons, and rubber bullets effectively clearing the park of protesters by force.
The animosity between police and protesters, however, pales in comparison to the compassion that civilians and protesters displayed towards one another on Saturday, and back on June 11.
Protesters assisted civilians between retaliating with rocks and slingshots. They would hold their hands and run them to medic stations nearby. At every street, shopkeepers took people in, closing their shutters until the street was clear of police and gas. Free water, food, lemon juice, and various homemade tonics for tear-gassed eyes were passed around for anyone in need. I had never experienced this kind of support and unification amid such chaos. I believe this was the heart that fueled the protests Istanbul protests motivating masses to return back to Taksim even though they had been gassed, soaked with both water and another chemical spray that irritated the skin. Kids refused to sit back and would approach the police asking them questions while watching a door being broken into, chairs being thrown out as young girls were arrested one by one, screaming for their release. People later that day began selling various masks and goggles.
By night, not a single person walked without a mask. The resistance lasted for over 20 hours, and Taksim became like a tulip, with Gezi park its center, as it would close and open with thousands of people either standing fiercely in front of construction trucks and the police or singing and laughing while improving their strategies on handling the next potential surge. That next surge, which came last night, has cleared the park, but the struggle for Gezi Park and Taksim Square is far from over.
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