Will Growing Turkey Protests Set Off 'Summer of Discontent'?
Park occupation, police crackdown spawn widespread protests
A crackdown on anti-government protesters in Istanbul escalated Friday when riot police stormed a protest encampment in Istanbul's 'last green space'—the beginning, not the end, of what many are now saying will be a "a summer of discontent."
Protesters began occupying Gezi Park on Monday when bulldozers arrived to tear up Istanbul's last green space of its kind for the construction of a mall.
The protest has grown throughout the week, now with thousands of protesters expressing anger at the use of excessive force against the crowds—quickly transforming a movement to save a public park into a wider movement against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).
In Friday's early morning raid, police used vast amounts of tear gas and water cannons, injuring many, with shocking images surfacing on Twitter and other social media outlets.
Protests continued throughout the day. Scores now injured and arrested, but the movement only seems to be growing.
"Clouds of tear gas rose around the area in Taksim Square that has long been a venue for political protest," Reuters reports.
"Several of the wounded were left lying on the ground unconscious after they were hit with large quantities of tear gas and pepper spray, while two people were hospitalized with injuries to the head," an Agence France-Presse photographer witnessed.
"They are spraying anybody like it is pesticide," tweeted one protestor using the handle @blogcuanne, "Kids, babies, the old, tourists, nobody matters."
Over 100 protesters were injured on Friday alone—many were hurt when a wall collapsed when dozens of protesters tried to climb over it to escape thick clouds of tear gas.
"We do not have a government, we have Tayyip Erdogan...Even AK Party supporters are saying they have lost their mind, they are not listening to us," said Koray Caliskan, a political scientist at Bosphorus University who attended the protest. "This is the beginning of a summer of discontent."
Several protesters in Gezi Park held a large poster with a caricature depicting Erdogan as an Ottoman sultan with a caption that read: "The people won't yield to you."
On Friday organizers for #OccupyGezi issued an "urgent call" to all "International Human Rights Organizations and Dear Friends, Comrades, Press Members from all over the world":
...This morning proved to be the culmination of violence and barbarism that no words can describe, with an unproportional use of force. The exit of the park was blocked by the police, thus locking the group in the park. The protester were then taken under crossfire of tear gas and pepper bombs, nearly getting choked to death. The only way out was by breaking the walls and many were wounded during this escape.
At the moment, brutal intervention against the protestors continues. The group has been pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed once more as they were leaving the area after reading their press call! At the moment, some are in Divan Hotel at Elmadag, having taken refuge there from the effect of the gas attacks.
Dear friends, we believe we need nothing else to add; the scenes talk for themselves.
The resistance for democracy and human rights will not be terminated; we are determined to continue our struggle against a government determined to crush each and every opposition, a government that cannot tolerate even a peaceful opposition for saving trees. The present Turkish government has violated all international human rights conventions and mechanisms it is a party to.
Your valuable support and solidarity will indeed fortify our determination and resistance. Please share this news, name it and shame and blame the responsibles so that this insanity and brutality practiced against human rights defenders can be terminated through international pressure...