This morning the mayor of Istanbul declared that there would be a “cleaning” operation of Taksim square, for which the barricades would be lifted. Early in the morning thousands of riot police and tens of TOMA (riot control vehicles) surrounded Taksim area from all sides, namely Gumussuyu, Tarlabasi and Harbiye entrances of the square.
This time, the operation felt a bit different as it started much later than previous “dawn operations,” at 7 a.m., and there was a live broadcast from all stations starting from 6:30. The feeling from behind a screen was the one of a very well established scene for the eyes of millions aiming to get their morning news when commuting to work or simply having breakfast in their homes. TOMAs and dozers marched before thousands of riot police forces, while the mayor kept tweeting, asking the protesters to remain in Gezi Park area of the square and they would be spared from any intervention.
The joyous atmosphere of the last few days of Taksim square hosting hundreds of thousands of people in festive manner was disturbed when the police started shooting smoke gas, tear gas and blast bombs unannounced in the middle of the square. Thousands retreated from the square to the park area, and then a group of people came in with masks on their faces and supposedly guns and wireless devices used by police only. The group started throwing Molotov cocktails towards the police, not hitting anyone but only crashing bottles on the ground causing flames to burst from behind a shield, upon which police started shooting teargas and smoke gas everywhere, even the empty spaces. When the peaceful protesters completely retreated to Gezi Park and only the presumed undercover policemen and the riot police were left in the square, one of the TOMAs caught fire, even though they have a special fire-resistant surface that can put out a fire quickly.
Police forces surrounded the Taksim monument (which is of historical importance for all protesters in Turkey), then began the “cleaning” session – which was only applied to leftist flags and banners. As one might remember, the day before, an AKP adviser had said “we are open to negotiate terms of ending the protests with those in the park, as long as the representatives are not of Alevi faith or a leftist person.” The police replaced leftist banners and posters with Turkish flags, aiming to split the unified resistance of all sides between left and right, which would weaken the hand of the resistance representatives in a supposed meeting tomorrow. For the last two days, government officials have been falsely declaring that certain groups have called off the protest on TV, upon which a spokesperson from that group declared that there is no such cancellation of protests and that they would resist until the government’s riot police stop attacking peaceful protesters with excessive force and aiming directly at them.
Concerning the destruction of Gezi Park, the court had declared that the demolition process, and moreover construction of any kind of historical or modern building on the site, is against the law, as the protection of the area goes beyond these limits; to which the government had replied that since the governing party had received the support of 50% in last elections, the justice system cannot continue to suppress general mentality by use of words, and should comply with the mainstream understanding in interpreting the law. A big group of lawyers protested this statement in the Istanbul Courthouse, and were charged by police outnumbering the lawyers by five times, were arrested, and remain in custody.
As it is the day of the parliamentary party groups’ meeting, PM Erdogan gave a speech at his group, restating that the demolition plans are appropriate and no matter what this situation may lead to, his plans shall be carried out. By diverging from the democratic approach, he declared all protesters (5 million occupiers and millions of others who support them in different times of the day) to be “terrorists” and “enemies of the state.” This in his eyes perhaps constructs a casus belli for this unlawful and inhumane raid against peaceful protesters who were basically defending their right to breathe fresh air in the middle of the city and reading books, making music, being creative in the most liberal atmosphere that has ever existed in this part of the world.
Currently, as these lines are being concluded, the police forces have started penetrating into the park area, throwing smoke gas and shooting teargas on people, although the governor had declared there would be no intervention in the park area and only a cleaning team would take care of “a few dirty bags and pieces of cloth” from the square – referring to the left parties’ banners.