The police came back last night (June 2nd), razed the Beşiktaş area, where the violence was the strongest overnight. The protesters resisted throughout and attempted to break into the empty palace and Istanbul home of Erdoğan. I don’t think they were successful.
I woke up late and wandered to Beşiktaş with a group of six students. We scoped out the scenes, which looked much different this time. I heard that Istiklal Street, the thoroughfare from my neighborhood to through Beşiktaş to Taksim, was covered in debris and blockages, but was cleared by morning. Bricks from the sidewalk were missing, though, lifted and placed into roadblocks leading up past the stadium Rihanna performed in 5 days ago, to Taksim Square.
The culture of Beşiktaş was odd. It was emptier than yesterday, but still tense. Less joyous, more prepared. A lot of younger protesters, teenagers, were methodically and sometimes powerfully taking apart small retainer walls or signs to create stronger barricades. There were some gleeful at the destruction, but others were more grave. This was serious business, regardless. One of my Turkish friends from New School said that this protest was a civil war, and seeing the youth take apart walls to make their barricades and walk about the burned out buses seems like a war effort. I saw 10 or so strategizing. This is not just an occupation of public property anymore, if it ever was.
We climbed past the barricades to Gezi Park, the forested portion of Taksim Square still threatened by construction, and found the camps of protesters. Many were playing cards, drinking beer, and sitting quietly in the shade. We marched on and found thousands more singing anthems and cheering, the sound of drums eerily filling the whole park (eerie maybe because I watch a lot of Game of Thrones and Doctor Who). The scene was comforting, though. Protesters were occupying and respecting the space, unlike the destruction in Beşiktaş. It was a communal and left-leaning experience, though many of the protesters are nationalists and would on no other condition share cigarettes and shade as they did in Gezi Park.
On the other side of Taksim Square, an area empty days ago, thousands more cheered and gathered. I spoke with an older protester who couldn’t speak much English (and my Turkish is very limited), but still managed to explain that the supply table in front of the Taksim Starbucks was part of an interntional solidarity organization, and that the proletariat had been provoked for socialism. I said goodbye and called him a friend and he said goodbye and called me a comrade.
Some of my friends were nervous about the yelling in Turkish and our poor knowledge, so four of us split off and took the Metro subway North to get out of dodge and ended up far North of my place, and I obstinately didn’t want to pay for a cab, so we walked for too long in a nice neighborhood (extra information).
After we left Taksim, Tens of Thousands marched into the park, vast numbers my friends couldn’t count. More than they had ever seen, marched and cheered, and jeered at Doğuş Garanti Bank, a backer of several of the major Turkish news firms who continue to not air the protests. The police came back at nightfall and threw teargas into the crowds of families and while international news organizations measured the panic at the fray, CNN Turk aired a documentary about penguins. You can’t make this stuff up.
As demonstrations continue all over Turkey, and Erdoğan’s AKP party offices have been attacked and set on fire by protesters in Izmir, I’m wondering about the use of violence in political strife. I talked about this extensively in one course at the Transregional Center for Democracy in Wroclaw, how violence is sometimes necessary when all other paths towards political change are disrupted. This makes me think of Jacques Ranciere and his Ten These of Politics (a great, but coarse description of Ranciere’s work). The point of the protest, or any protest really, is in part to disrupt the police order of “dissensus” that is a false democracy. Putting themselves in the public sphere when they feel like their politics have been ignored by the ruling class, the Turkish protesters disrupt the status quo.