Sunday night I was in Osmanbey. To get there I had to take a taxi because my friend and I were warned that pro-government thugs were out wandering the streets attacking protesters, and they were just around the corner from where we were. In Osmanbey we saw more TOMAs and water cannons, police firing tear gas, flash bombs, getting chased through side streets, old women shouting down to us in the street, wondering if we needed water or lemon…. Then I saw a student of mine who wanted to take a photo of us together as we were choking on tear gas.
With pro-government thugs wandering the streets, attacking people with the police, threats of the army becoming involved (and the Jandarma already involved), rumours of live ammunition being used, 5 unions calling for strikes on Monday but the government calling the strikes illegal and that the police would react with necessary force, I was a bit afraid of massive riots breaking out and decided I would stay home for a while. Then there are the current stories in the press of the hundreds of people detained since Saturday, the raids on people’s homes in the mornings, arrests due to information on facebook and twitter, arrests of lawyers, doctors and journalists, there is a lot of paranoia going around. People are scared.
I saw today that the police have used, in the past 20 days, 130,000 gas bombs. They’ve basically gone through all the tear gas they bought for 2013, so they’ve ordered 100,000 more gas bombs.
The past few days there have been other protests going on. There is the now famous “Standing Man” who stood at Taksim square silently for 8 hours a few days ago, before he was detained. This has now sparked other “standing” protests all over the country. People have also begun gathering in other parks all over Istanbul, and it’s taken on a different feel. Last night I went to Yogurtcu park in Kadikoy, and tonight I went to Abasaga park in Besiktas. What’s happening now in these parks is a dialogue. People share ideas and thoughts, instead of clapping and chanting, people wave their hands in the air as a way of applauding but doing so silently so people can still be heard.
As cheesy and lame as it sounds, I was so heartened by what I saw in Abasaga park and what I hear is going on in parks all over Istanbul. Despite losing the central gathering point of Taksim square and Gezi Park, despite the massive arrests that are going on, despite the gross violence that has been happening all over Turkey (and continues in Ankara nearly every night, and last night in Eskisehir)… people are still gathering. The atmosphere in Abasaga park was so uplifting. Thousands of people were there, not to mention how many people were in other parks all over the city. As word continues to spread over facebook and twitter, these new park gatherings will grow and grow.