Starting with the informatory talks between the government and the council of Taksim Solidarity (to save Gezi Park), the tense situation in Turkey had cooled down for a short period of time. Before the meeting took place, an AKP adviser declared that they wanted to invite several people from TS, but there were none who are Sunni Muslim and support a rightist ideology. Two witnesses had confirmed that Erdogan yelled and shouted at TS members during the meeting and did not care to listen to their demands. The demands were clear – Gezi would be saved from destruction, all those detained across the country for supporting Gezi would be released without further investigation, and there would be no attacks on peaceful protesters. Erdogan shunned these demands, stating that he had the support of voters behind him, but eventually only agreed to let a court decide whether the park remains a park; and even then, depending on the court decision they may take it to a plebiscite in Istanbul.
The TS council declared that the protests for Gezi Park should be ended; however most people protesting by now have been protesting the arbitrary police violence, the brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters, and the crimes committed by the riot police from excessive use of gas, chemicals, beatings on the streets as well as arbitrary arrests. The policing of civilians has come to the point of arbitrary search and arrest of individuals simply walking on the streets – several undercover policemen jumping on one person, grabbing bags and searching everywhere without a warrant or order papers.
When the Governor of Istanbul tried to soften the tone of interventions by making a public declaration that he has the support of the chief of police and the regional military commander, he stated that no peaceful protester is being touched, but that there are a few provocateurs (who turned out to be undercover policemen). The unnecessary show of force with the police and soldiers against civilians gave a clear vision of what the government’s decision would be, yet everyone expected – or hoped – that violence would stop and peaceful protests would continue to express the wish for a guarantee of democratic rights. The Governor also stated that no one’s life can be protected any longer if they insist on staying in the park and addressed mothers: “Come fetch your kids from the park, they are in danger.”
Mothers responded to this call and thousands came to protect their kids from police violence, building a peace chain around police. Under protection of their mothers, the “kids” continued with their peaceful protests through a piano concert, which later joined in with a philharmonic orchestra concert in Taksim Square. The very same piano would get confiscated as evidence for terrorist activities later on.
While everyone expected a cooling down and a call for restraint from the government, still hoping for a democratic process, AKP sent out riot police, tons of smoke and teargas, blast bombs, rubber bullets and many rifles, water cannons (with the addition of chemicals in the liquid), panzers, and this time military forces. When the attacks began on Gezi Park, so did nationwide protests against AKP’s tyranny. While all roads were blocked, protesters started a peace march towards Taksim, hoping to make a clear statement to the security forces that they are peaceful. Among them was even a totally naked man – to prove that he is “unarmed,” since the police claim everyone they shoot are armed terrorists.
The intervention started unannounced with blast bombs shot into the middle of the crowds by police, along with many gas bombs to limit protesters’ vision and breathing. When people tried to stop the panicking crowds, among whom were the disabled, old people and very little kids (as this is a park and on Saturday afternoon everyone was there), police started shooting gas bombs and blast bombs at the people. Thousands tried to take refuge in the Divan Hotel, a popular refuge since the first day of protests which was used as a hospital to treat the wounded. Later on police raided the hotel and gassed the rooms, detaining hundreds.
In other areas similar things happened and the military was called in to help as the police were ineffective against so many civilians. When soldiers joined in with the police to stop the peaceful protesters, people were still gathering in crowds across the country. The government declared that all the millions of people who support any protest against AKP are terrorists and will be treated as such. In the meantime, doctors who were on voluntary duty to treat the wounded were detained, journalists were not allowed in Taksim Square, and lawyers who represent any arrested protester were kept in custody.
As the world’s eyes were on the excessive force unleashed onto peaceful protesters, the Turkish media still kept silent, if not propagandizing for the government. The next day’s newspaper headlines focused on “how peaceful the police have been while kindly asking people to leave, until they had to intervene when protesters started shooting policemen.”
The media’s attitude is like that of a country under military rule; indeed this may be a coup organized by AKP with police and military support. Several journalists and editors who dared to write about the events were openly “warned” by the government to stop writing and issue an apology in order to prevent future “consequences.” After all the newspapers ran the same headlines last week, this time Taraf – a prominent civilian newspaper always having an anti-militarist focus – was banned from publishing any further news of the Turkish secret service gathering information on tens of thousands of social-media users and filing them to hand over to the government when protests are done.
As threats against social-media users continue to emerge from AKP officials, there is a new law being drafted to criminalize any support of an opposition view of the government on the social media and imprison the “offender.” Hundreds of detainees are missing. Amnesty International declared that they want to know where were all those people taken.
PM Erdogan is holding a major rally in Istanbul today, for which the government supplied planes and buses to bring millions of AKP members and policemen from across country, and has one clear message: “The police are using water cannons, gas bombs… but in some countries they also use bullets. If protests do not end, my security forces know how to get rid of them.”