On Wednesday 29 May 2013, a small group of students and ecologists tore down the barriers to occupy the Gezi Park adjoining Taksim, the most symbolic of Istanbul’s central squares. Their declared aim was to stop developers from building a shopping-centre that was to be housed in a replica of a military barracks building demolished sixty years ago – resulting in the destruction of much of the park. The group attracted support from intellectuals and politicians, notably the pro-Kurdish socialist MP Sirri Süreyya Önder. The event was completely peaceful, but the police response to activists was, by any measure, disproportionate. Their repression initially forced the protesters out of the park, but caused wide public outrage. Soon, mobilized by social media, they were back – and in hugely greater numbers. By Friday 31 May, tens of thousands were clashing with police units in different Istanbul neighbourhoods, while clouds of teargas darkened the skies. Police units threw gas-bombs and teargas into metro-stations, hotel-lobbies and residential buildings. By midnight, protesters had retaken the park, even as street-fights continued and spread to many, mostly middle-class, suburbs. Hundreds of protestors were wounded and hundreds more taken into police custody. Clashes intensified on Saturday and spread increasingly around the country.
more from Kerem Oktem at Eurozine here.