On the first anniversary of Gezi Park uprising, we the people with collective consciousness have declared from days ago that we wish to commemorate victims of state violence at the ground zero, Gezi Park. There is no need to repeat that according to Turkish constitution and universal human rights, all kinds of peaceful protests can occur without asking for permission of anyone. While AKP government previously employed provocateur plainclothes policemen to make interventions seem like police is trying to suppress violent protests, this time they did not even bother to cover naked attempt at massacre.
Early morning on May 31st, Gezi Park already closed, Istanbul in lock down mode, public transport cancelled, dozens of public buses keep deploying more and more policemen to Taksim Square from airport where thousands of police officers are being brought to Istanbul from all parts of Turkey. Prime Minister Erdoğan declared before the anniversary that anyone showing up on Taksim would have violated laws and the police have received exact orders to “do whatever it takes to get rid of the people on Taksim Square”.
25.000 riot police, paramilitary forces, 50 TOMAs (water cannons), dozens of riot vehicles, work vehicles, fire trucks, helicopters, all took siege of Taksim Square to prevent any citizen from entering the park. Except for Taksim vicinity, all major squares, surrounding gathering places, mosques, hospitals, hotel lobbies were occupied by police so that they would not be used as infirmaries or to treat wounded protesters, as happened last year. Taksim Solidarity’s campaign calling for “1 million people to Taksim” must have been absolutely terrifying for Erdoğan to give such immoral orders to stop people at whatever cost. The plainclothes people armed with uniform backpacks, batons and gas masks unleashed all kinds of savagery and brutality against civilians arbitrarily around Taksim Square.
During the day, there was not many problems. Few incidents have been observed. However not to forget the harassment of CNN International’s Istanbul correspondent Ivan Watson on air. While Watson was on live report to CNN, police came harassing him, asking for his press card, passport and later kicking him and detaining while on air, because he was a foreign journalist. This action was part of a systematic sweeping off of foreign journalists from the area; and orders came from a government that severely criticized the Egyptian coup government that gave similar orders.
(to watch Ivan Watson’s detention)
Another significant incident that took place before there was even a protest was the raid of the Liberal Democratic Party’s building and detention of two liberal activists. Several liberal activists from 3H Movement (Law Liberty Tolerance) had asked for permission to hang a banner on LDP’s party building which reads in big fonts “FEAR NOT!”, however only a minute after the banner was hanged, police raided the building. When asked why the activists were being detained, police officers replied “we cannot detain you legally of course, so let’s go for a walk together towards the police station.” The activists were taken to police station, their phones confiscated, data inside deleted (all the photos and videos of banner being hanged). Other movement member liberals on Taksim Square taking photos of the banner got intervened and photos from their phones and cameras got deleted too.
On Taksim Square, when police locked down the park, several young activists took out their books, sat in front of the police forces and started reading. Only after a minute, several police officers started shouting at them saying “Stop provoking us by reading provocatively, don’t get us nervous like this!” and not long after they pushed the activists away, trying to confiscate their books. Book reading in the park during the sit-in was quite popular on the first day of Gezi Park protests last year and there was a Çapulling Library established in the park during occupation.
During the day there have been two occupations of train stations on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. While most number of policemen were deployed to the European side, the activists in Kadıköy quietly occupied the unaccompanied Haydarpaşa Train Station, which the government wanted to transform into a shopping mall or hotel. Not long after this occupation, then came a neighbouring train station, Göztepe -another target in government’s plans to be turned into a shopping mall.
Until 7pm, police kept pushing people down from Istiklal avenue, and at exactly 7pm simultaneous attacks began and all hell broke loose. All armed forces of AKP started attacking randomly against everyone, gassing, shooting, beating. Dozens of people suffered terrible tortures in day time, in the middle of streets. The newly appearing plainclothes men -much like Iran’s “Basij” (islamic revolutionary guards) forces- were armed with batons and wore the same yellow jacket. The ratio of attacks were often one to ten. Whenever a protester fell on the ground, 10-15 armed “security forces” would run and beat & kick on the ground him for minutes.
While all these attacks on civilians were taking place, the media did not betray last year’s habit and continued to show irrelevant programs, documentaries, however no penguins have been reported this time; this year’s trend was “strawberry documentary” on CNN Turk. The pro-government media broadcasted the events in a completely different manner this time, showing empty/quiet areas and stating that nothing is happening and that the people have lost faith in the protests.
There was no resistance like there was last year. This year’s call for commemoration was simply a day of mourning after hundreds of miners were buried alive thanks to government’s lack of inspections and indifference towards work related deaths, and the latest victim of Gezi Park protests. The latest victim was Elif Çermik (64) died in coma after 159 days as a result of heart attack caused by too much tear gas. To commemorate all the deaths that are caused by government’s orders, people wanted to leave flowers to the park and it is in fact quite a miracle that more deaths did not happen due to uncontrolled police in systematic violation of human rights and attempt to drive all media away from the vicinity.
When houses of several citizens got raided by people with batons and yellow jackets, they asked who they are and where their permission/warrant papers are. The answer they received was “we have all kinds of permission from the Chief, so you never mind…”
There was another alternative protest in Istanbul as well though; to commemorate Mavi Marmara flotilla, which got raided by Israelit Defence Forces and 9 Turkish citizens were murdered on board by Israelit soldiers. A pro-government NGO held a protest rally to commemorate the loss of lives and campaign for transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque as well as to name their hatred and threats towards Israel. Thousands marched on streets from the touristic Sultanahmet to where Mavi Marmara is harboured, Sarayburnu. No police intervened, no one attacked, no one got hurt… But then again, this was an action in line with government’s agenda and double-standards are a fact of AKP governance.
As the police were deployed from across the country to Taksim Square very early during the day, served the whole day non-stop and protests just kept spreading to other districts from Taksim, towards midnight they started getting tired and Taksim Solidarity members actually just walked by into Gezi Park. A couple of hours later there was a group of more than 100 people in the park leaving their flowers… When people entered the park, no one got hurt, and a whole day’s unnecessary use of excessive use of force served to Erdoğan’s claim to his dictatorial throne, by his very own definition:
“If I were a dictator, would you be able to roam around freely on squares?” (24.05.2014) R.T. Erdoğan