Socialist Worker

Riot cops storm Turkey's Taksim Square

As police try to remove protesters in Istanbul, Ron Margulies looks at the political make-up of the protests and their growing popularity across Turkey

Issue No. 2357

Protesters form a cordon to block police in Istanbul on Tuesday of this week

Protesters form a cordon to block police in Istanbul on Tuesday of this week


Riot police stormed Istanbul’s Taksim Square in the early hours of Tuesday of this week.

This followed ten days of what can only be called “people’s power” in the square and the adjacent Gezi Park.

Police fired rubber bullets at protesters, along with the pepper spray that they have polluted the country with over the past two weeks.

There was some limited fighting in the streets around the square on Tuesday morning.

In the park, protesters engaged in a fierce debate about whether to resist police or to withdraw in an orderly fashion.

But as Socialist Worker went to press, the police had announced that they would only stay in the square and not touch the park.

Protests began last month in Gezi Park against plans to cut down trees to build a shopping centre. 

These turned into mass resistance to police violence after police attacked them.

Police withdrew from the area two Saturdays ago, after pitched battles with thousands of people enraged by the police violence of the preceding two days.

As the police disappeared, a huge area in the centre of the city immediately became the scene of a popular festival. 

Thousands stayed there every night and tens of thousands visited every day after working hours.

They set up tents, political stalls and a small platform where everyone could speak. 

There has been a carnival atmosphere and an explosion of creativity in slogans, placards and songs.

Kurdish people have been involved and some demonstrations in solidarity with the movement have been held in Kurdish cities.

But their participation is not at its full strength.

The Kurdish movement is engaged in an ongoing peace process with the government. This has resulted in the PKK guerilla force retreating from Turkey into Northern Iraq.

In return the Kurds, whose existence has been denied by the Turkish state for 90 years, will be recognised.

Attacks

In the park, Kurds have faced some attacks because they display PKK leader Ocalan’s posters.

Socialists and anti-racists are fighting to diminish the influence of nationalists in the park, and to defend Turkish-Kurdish unity.

There has been a dominant atmosphere of solidarity and comradeship in the park.

There was even a demonstration there in solidarity with women wearing headscarves.

There have been demonstrations across the country in solidarity with those in the Square and Park. Many have been awash with Turkish flags as Islamophobic nationalists have tried to inject the movement with their poison.

This has given the government the chance to mobilise its own conservative and religious base against protesters.

Police have brutally attacked the solidarity protests. Three people have died as a result and hundreds have been injured.

The violence began to ebb as the government realised the popularity of the protests. Yet it has still refused to concede to protesters’ demands.

Four demands have been put forward.

First is that the government must announce that the shopping centre will not be built.

One opinion poll shows that 75 percent of Istanbul residents and 64 percent of people in Turkey oppose the plan.

Second is that the Istanbul governor and chief of police must be sacked. Third that everyone who is in custody or under arrest must be released.

And finally that the square must be open to all demonstrations, and the use of pepper gas must be banned.

A 15-strong delegation from the protests was scheduled to meet the prime minister on Wednesday of this week.

Ron Margulies is a member of the DSIP socialist organisation in Istanbul

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