When the Protest Comes to Your Front Door

Yesterday there were demonstrations all over Istanbul in honor of 15 year-old Berkin Elvan. Berkin was a boy who was hit in the head with a teargas canister last June during the height of the Gezi protests, went into a coma that lasted over 250 days, and died the other morning. His funeral was yesterday.

There has been no investigation into his death.

The demonstrations were peaceful, like they always are, until the police came.

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The police here follow the motto of Mayor Richard the First of Chicago: “Gentlemen, get the thing straight once and for all– the policeman isn’t there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”

This is looking north on Halaskargazi Caddessi in the early evening. My wife had exited that Metro stop (Osmanbey happens to be the stop closest to our apartment) shortly before the police swept in. You can see what she saw here.

Today’s Zaman and Hurriyet had hour-by-hour coverage. Hurriyet has a video on its page showing exactly how the police cleared the area by the Osmanbey stop at the corner of Ergenekon and Halaskargazi. They shot teargas canisters into stores and restaurants.

Things got noisy just before dusk. We saw people running down our street and heard several loud pops. People peered out of apartment windows and shouted, “Katil police! Hesap verecek!”

What do you do when the demonstrations are shoved to your front door courtesy of heavy-handed police tactics? You do what I did: you go out with your camera phone and take some video.

Sorry about the shakiness of the video. I hope no one gets motion sickness when they view it. The video gets blurry at the end as I start running after the teargas canister was shot.

From where I was standing the street angles up. So every time the police shot a teargas canister in the direction of our apartment, it would roll down. Here you can see a canister and then a guy picking it up and throwing it back. There were several guys (they were all guys as far as I could tell) who wore masks and would either kick the canister away or throw it back.

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Then one of those TOMAs, what I call a “police plow,” barged down the street with about a dozen riot police.

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Notice that the Onur grocery store was open the whole time. There’s also a taxi stand to the right on our side of the street. You can’t see it in the photos, but the taxis were coming and going most of the time.

The police plow pushed what had been part of a barricade, that had been set further up the street, down in front of our apartment.

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After I took the video and posted it on Youtube and then linked to it on my Facebook page, we got the kids ready for bed, and then I went back out to the street to take some pictures. Things had settled down. The police were no longer shooting water cannons or teargas at anyone. But there were fires and lots of debris all over the street. The barricades and fires are set up to keep the police from attacking at close range.

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These guys were pushing a car back against the curb. It had been angled out, almost perpendicular with the sidewalk. Once the car was back in place, people clapped.

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This is the fire that was in front of our apartment.

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I came inside to find my wife on a Skype call with my sister. Apparently, there was a family freakout about me being out there taking video. My mother and her friend had been staying with us and had left our apartment yesterday morning for Ankara. And so my sister and father were panicked. After reassuring my sister that I was alive and well and that everyone was safe, I went to bed.

In the morning, I took the kids down to wait for the school bus.The fire was gone.

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Once they were off to school, I took a few photos of the street this morning.

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Though there was some small debris, the streets were clear. Traffic moved as it normally does. People were heading to work. Even our garbage, which we leave outside our apartment door on a nightly basis, was picked up.

Without justice for Berkin and all the others killed since the Gezi protests started, what are people here to do?

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6 thoughts on “When the Protest Comes to Your Front Door

  1. Wow! This is sad to read but I’m glad you’re ok. Be careful next time you’re taking videos. Did your children ask about what happened? It must be hard to explain political issues to kids…
    Take care Richard.

    • We didn’t show the video to the kids. We’ve explained that the government here in Turkey doesn’t allow people to demonstrate and so the police use force to break up any demonstrations, no matter how peaceful those demonstrations are.

      For the record, neither I nor my wife participate in protests here. It’s not our country, therefore it’s not our place to be involved. But when protestors were running down our street followed by tear gas, police, and TOMAs, I wanted a closer look to see how it was playing out. 🙂

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