Taksim Square Protests: the Gezi Park Movement

After seeing local sites (the Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Grand Bazar, the city walls) I’m ready to head into the heart of Istanbul and Taksim Square.  It’s the huge open plaza where the government tried to convert a small, dingy park into a shopping mall.  Those critical of the government saw it as yet another example of corrupt politics for special interests, and decided to make the park a symbol of protest.  Borrowing from the “occupy” movement of 2011 and 12 in the U.S., they camped out in the park and held their ground against fierce assaults by the police.  8 people died, including one policeman.

On the afternoon I visited, riot police were out in force.  A small crowd was gathering in the nearby park, which is little more than a narrow strip of land with a few trees on it.  It does occupy the high ground and would be difficult to assault from any direction except the front-facing plaza.  Perhaps this is why the protestors could hold on for 3 months.  

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Despite many people out shopping and strolling, such as the two girls I photographed below, the area around the plaza was tense.  Something was going to happen, and more cops kept arriving.  I asked several people for information, but no one could speak English.  After waiting around for an hour, I decided I didn’t want to be stuck there when it became dark and headed back.

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Here’s the story I saw in the news the morning after my visit to Taksim Square.

Turks stage fresh anti-corruption protests in Istanbul
2014-03-02 10:25
ISTANBUL, March 1 — “Thousands of people staged fresh anti-corruption protests Saturday in Turkey’s coastal city of Istanbul over a leaked recording that came up earlier this week implicating the country’s prime minister.  Demonstrations have been off and on across Turkey since the audio came under the spotlight. A phone conversation was allegedly recorded between Prime Minister Erdogan and his son Bilal on hiding a big sum of money from police raids.

In Istanbul, demonstrations were held in the centers of several districts Saturday, demanding the government’s resignation. In Kadikoy district, protesters marched with huge safe boxes, symbolizing the money allegedly found Bilal’s house. Almost 1,000 riot policemen were present in iconic Taksim Square and Istiklal Street, firing tear gas to prevent people from entering the square.

Analysts say the power struggle, the ongoing corruption probe and the recent audio scandal have deepened the polarization of the Turkish society.”

 

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