Special Report | The Attack on Gezi Park: “No one wants to give up the fight now”
New in Ceasefire, Special Reports - Posted on Sunday, June 16, 2013 12:29 - 5 Comments
Istanbul, June 16 – 2:26am I write this from the restaurant of a hotel decent enough to open its doors to people choking on the tear gas-filled streets streaming out from Taksim Square, Istanbul. The police attacked around 9pm, so hard this time that they took the park rapidly, gassing people from the space and flooding the surrounding area.
This provoked many thousands more to join them and every artery of the city space was packed with angry, chanting people. Audible support also reaches us from those without the capacity to physically partake in the running battles with cops by banging pots and pans from their windows and balconies. The volume is immense and booms through the avenues.
Here at the hotel people come in waves: agonising, pain-filled faces entering and being relieved with solutions of water and ‘Rennie’ mixtures. The sting often renders people unable to walk which causes further injuries but, after the effects subside, the masses surge back towards the heart of Taksim.
Police aren’t only using tear gas though. The canisters that contain it are lethal weapons which strike heads, torsos and all body parts with disastrous impact. The online space is filled with the harsh realities of these strikes. Water canons fire from trucks into the crowds in attempts to disperse, move on, cause panic and generally fuck up resisters. Sound bombs blast – deafening you for moments and causing severe shock in the inexperienced – One landed at my feet a few hours ago and physically shook me as I ran, leaving a ringing in my ears.
But what are the people doing? People are preparing and reshaping the space to make it suitable for the fight. Youths scale buildings and posts many stories high to smash down surveillance cameras that provide police with some of the information they need to out-manoeuvre the crowds. To stop the police water canon trucks, several hundred people at a time make human chains to build barricades with materials from building sites and all forms of street furniture.
Hundreds also worked with great and persistent strength to rip up the fences which separated the boulevards down the middle. These fences meant that people were narrowly trapped when tear gas canisters landed among them. Once they were torn-up (after much effort) the fences were either dragged and locked into each other in an upside down V-shape or else placed on existing barricades.
The most common, even normalised routine of mutual aid has been the spraying of anti-tear gas fluids into people’s eyes and mouth during attacks. People come prepared with spray bottles, shouting ‘SOLUTION!’ (or else sufferers call for it) and/or hold it above their heads so people can neutralise the toxic crap from their
Bandannas, scarfs and materials to cover the mouth are soaked in vinegar to weaken the effects and lemons are scattered everywhere because of their ability to provide some relief too. These tactics of alleviating severe discomfort are absolutely vital as they enable people to return to action much quicker and with
On Thursday, at the Divan hotel, which lies at the back of Gezi park, at the opposite end to Taksim Square, human chains worked to relocate and home a medical centre. Its underground car park became refuge to substantial amounts of people fleeing the tremendous attack tonight.
But this wasn’t enough. The captive, frightened and disorientated people were gassed inside the building itself. Footage of the attack are continuously being uploaded to file sharing websites as I write, and the government-challenging TV station ‘Ulusal’ reported the incident in graphic detail from the scene.
Several friends headed their for refuge and found temporary safety on the sixth floor before fearfully escaping from a window. People inside worried that, if they left, this would spell almost certain arrest. Fortunately for some, they decided to flee minutes before mass arrests were made at the hotel.
This is already becoming a widely reported event. At this stage it is anyone’s guess how many have been taken in by police. What is known is that the police have been found to be inadequate, and so members of the army have been drafted in to fulfil duties as well. This especially unnerving development provides proof-certain of the current position of the country’s military, which was until now conspicuous by its absence, unwilling to declare its intentions.
Over the past weeks, as an encampment to preserve a green space transformed and exploded into a country-wide resistance fight, numbers on the streets have grown and grown. The gathering in Taksim Square on Tuesday (10th June) brought together over 10,000 people who were duly treated to heavy gassing, water cannoning and being shot at with plastic bullets.
Catching a spinning tear gas canister to return it the police’s way is no easy feat, and bullets whipping across your jeans gets the adrenaline pumping even more. On every occasion the police have sparked a riot situation, brutally striking out and provoking the throwing of rocks and occasionally molotov cocktails which have at best rendered a few water canons useless.
I hear no one talking about stopping. No one wants to give up the fight now, people have been inspired by the mutual aid, they feel that there’s so much power in them that they are prepared to suffer to get somewhere better. The inspiration is palpable.
As I pass out from exhaustion in a hotel chair in some street I’ve never been to before, with people I just met and while newly created protest music videos ring out from the hotel TV, I’m eager to see what will happen tomorrow.
Everyone answers the question ‘do you have any predictions for what will happen next?’ with a universal ‘no’. The phrase goes “it’s anyone’s guess”, but people aren’t guessing – they’re doing!
The streets are on fire.. and they’re letting them burn.