Today’s Istanbul Weather Forecast: Sunny With a Chance of Tear Gas and Bursts of Water Cannon

This morning I was up early to run. Not as early as normal as I had gone to bed later than I’d planned. But I was out the door by a quarter after six.

I was hoping to get my run in before things got nasty. We live in Şişli which had been expected to be a site of clashes between protesters and police on this May Day. Many labor organizations wanted to demonstrate in Taksim to mark May Day. President Erdogan told them all no. Ferry ports have been closed. The subway line that runs through Taksim has been closed down. The funicular that runs from the square down to the ferry port is also down.

My route took me up near the Sişli Mosque, then back down Halaskargazi, then Rumeli into Nişantaşı, passing the Teşvikiye Mosque, and on down toward Dolmabahçe. There were police and barricades everywhere along that part of the route. I stopped seeing police after Teşvikiye. I didn’t see any police on Dolmabahçe. Only a handful when I headed up toward Machka Park, and none when I went toward Taksim on Asker Oçağı.

That’s when I ran into a little trouble. At the top of the steep hill. For the people staying at the Hotel InterContinental and the Divan Hotel, it’s a good thing they’re very nice hotels. Because no one is going to be entering or leaving those hotels today. The police barricades completely surround them. I was able, along with some pedestrians, to slip in-between one small opening in the barricades and get on the sidewalk so I could go up Cumhurriyet back towards our apartment.

But then there were barricades and police swarming all over. I had to run through and around groups of police and, more ominously, men dressed in plain clothes carrying billy clubs. The street was closed off and that proved the easiest to run on. So I ran up the street, garnering several curious looks. The police probably thought I was a dumb tourist. No, I’m just a dumb yabancı running fool.

When I finished my route a block south of the intersection of Ergenekon and Halaskargazi, I walked, weaving my way through more police. One of the börek places was doing a booming business. Every available chair was occupied by a börek-eating and tea-drinking police officer in riot gear.

I reached the Ramada there at the intersection and went to turn on Ergenekon but was greeted by barricades. The street was completely blocked off. I walked further up to the next side street. Again, the street was barricaded off completely. No access. Luckily, on the next side street there was a gap in the barricades and I slipped through down the narrow street and turned onto Ergenekon. All of the shops were closed. There were police blocking off the road, forcing what little car and pedestrian traffic there was to go back or down Kurtuluş. Good thing I was walking in the direction the police wanted people to walk, away from Halaskargazi Avenue.

I bought some börek from my usual place and returned to our apartment.

Just after I had finished my breakfast the protestors chanted and marched in the direction of Halaskargazi.

ImageImage

Some took the time to drag the planters out onto the street. Later, our doorman, with help of some others pulled them off the street and back onto the sidewalk.

Image

This group were picking up bricks and breaking them into pieces to be used in sling shots.

Image

One guy was slamming the side of the building. Two people from Onur came out and told him to stop. He did. After the protesters left they sent a guy out with a cart to collect all the loose bricks.

Image

It wasn’t long before the protesters were pushed back down our street.

ImageImage

Here’s the TOMA that was shooting the water.

Image

Fireworks could be heard going off for several minutes after the TOMA followed the protesters. It’s a common tactic used by the protestors to keep the police back.

About an hour later, things had settled down enough that I was able to walk up the street to our favorite bakery and buy a few sweets for this afternoon.

Despite it being a beautiful sunny day, we’re stuck inside the apartment. We had originally planned to do a cruise up the Bosphorus. We had thought it would be a good thing to do on a sunny day and also to be away from all the madness in the streets. But, alas, with the subway down, the ferries not running, the streets closed, and several bus lines not running or rerouted, we’ve nowhere to go.

How was your morning?

Advertisements

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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 6.13.37 AM

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.

Image

Image

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

Image

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.

fire1

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.

street_night2

street_night3

street_night1

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.

car_push

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

fire2

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.

nofire

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

street_morning1

graffiti2

graffiti1

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?