Letter from Taksim – 1

3 June 2013, Taksim

As promised, more details about the situation here. I spent the morning walking around Gezi Park and talking to people. Getting there was difficult as the whole area has been barricaded and cars cannot get to the Taksim square. On the phone, my friend Ilker, who’s has been tweeting from the “front line” since the beginning, said the barricades and overturned cars were to protect them from attacking police force. After a short walk i got to the park, there were plenty of students singing songs and chanting slogans as well as people doing yoga, some resting or reading books, others distributing water and food or cleaning and most were engaged in lively discussions about the situation-and of course plenty of plain clothes policemen who appear to be so clumsy at hiding their identity. The slogans from students varied from “down with the AKP” to “we are Ataturk’s soldiers” these are rallied by young Kemalist groups and are only one part of the big picture. The whole place is covered with the writings of all sorts of different social or political parties: Marxist-Leninist, Unions, Nationalists, Enviromentalists etc… The one thing that got me though was that: each one of the trees facing destruction had the name of a victim of the Roboski or Reyhanli bombings- neither of which have been properly investigated. I then had lunch with my friend Serdar, Arzu and Francois who have been at the protests since the beginning. Their feeling/message is strikingly clear. They are NOW on the streets to preserve their right of protest. LAST WEEK they were in Gezi Park to support the small dedicated group of protesters who’s been there for months, opposing the planned construction of a shopping mall in the Park. The trigger for the wider protest came when the police attacked them with teargas and water cannons. People were outraged at images of the occupiers tents being burnt and others being injured by the teargas gun canisters. Meanwhile, till this morning, Erdogan continues his bullish attitude and the media- in fear of his famous aggressive manner – don’t report the peaceful demonstrators but put the emphasis on looted shops or “irresponsible/idle” behaviour. It’s upsetting seeing the Guardian take out the detail and do the same describing it all as “anger against the regime”. So far, it seems, the real anger resides with the police force who are still not stepping back but are committed to gas the country to unconsciousness. The anger is with the Foreign Minister who claim the protests “harm our country’s image abroad” or Erdogan himself who… is always angry anyway. The freedom to voice our discontent is being questioned, the right to assemble and protest is being questioned, and it is being questioned with the lack of a free media and plenty of gas. People are excited and discussions spark up all over: in the tube or in the dolmus taxi’s and it seems a whole load of people want their voice heard and a kind of wall of fear has fallen. This is already an clear victory and my job for 3 days is to help maintain it. In the afternoon my friends and I went gas mask/goggle shopping in case we find ourselves in a difficult situation. Serdar is already a veteran and was quite calm about it all. I’m going back out to Gezi, but don’t worry, my priority is to keep my face as beautiful as ever (I have to be back in front of a camera playing a handsome gangster by saturday morning in Budapest). YET i feel i must work a little harder to qualify as a proper “Good for nothing” As for you, it feels it’ll be great help if you can spread the word as much as possible that this is about freedom to criticise those in power.

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