#Direngezi

Due to how scattered my brain and thoughts are about the current protests in Istanbul, it’s really hard for me to put them down coherently in some manner of eloquent prose. The best I can manage is to try to capture how chaotic it feels being here at the moment.

The past week has been interesting. After the chaos of hearing of the morning raid on Taksim square from my housemate and then watching the police attack again the same day last Tuesday, I went to Gezi park every evening last week. Every day before I went to school I’d pack my bag with my hard helmet, swimming goggles, extra t-shirt as a rag for a mask, milk for the eyes and bottles of vinegar or antacid mixed with water which helps you breathe when tear gas is around. Every day after school I’d be in Taksim and write my blood type on my arms, so that doctors can know my blood group in the event I’m knocked unconscious by a gas canister and in need of blood. Though the atmosphere was tense after the violence of Tuesday, the park remained calm for the rest of the week. We had hoped that with the PM supposedly meeting with some of the protesters, the police violence would stop.Saturday I went to the park again. Around 9pm the police gave a short warning for everyone in the park to get out and that they were coming in. Then I watched the TOMAs (water cannon vehicles) come up into the park, spraying water, tear gas everywhere, and I could hear rubber bullets being fired. There aren’t many ways out of the park, and with the fading daylight, clouds of tear gas and panic, it was treacherous getting out. I was in the line of people pushed out of the back of the park, down the steep ravine where the diggers had been pulling out the trees two weeks before. We then rushed into the Divan Hotel, which had been accepting protesters earlier when the police attacked. Saturday night it essentially served as a makeshift hospital for the wounded.The police then attacked the Divan Hotel, spraying water cannons at protesters gathered outside (police now mix the water with tear gas, so it burns the skin), as well as throwing tear gas canisters at the hotel. I got out when I realized that the police had surrounded the hotel and would probably try to arrest anyone who was there. I went to a friend’s house nearby and read the news all night. My friends were out in the fighting on Istiklal Caddesi: here’s his video. The police attacked other hotels and even some hospitals. Fighting continued all night and the police even fired tear gas canisters into windows of apartments where they believed protesters were hiding. They began arresting doctors and lawyers who had helped the protesters because, as the protests are illegal, it is illegal to help people involved.

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.