After murmurs of revival jerks, the anti-government demonstrations originating in Istanbul’s Gezi Park are coming back to life. Yesterday, an innocent 15 year-old became the latest casualty of the government’s controversial use of police force. The boy, Berkin Elvan, was struck in the side of the head by a tear gas canister launched by the Turkish Polis while he was out getting bread. From this extreme contrast of innocence and violence, the young teenager’s image has come to be a symbol for the resistance movement.
The protests commenced after the boy’s parents announced their beloved son’s death on social media. A vigil was conducted outside the hospital he remained in a coma for the past 269 days. Crowds flocked to the scene to pay their respects, but the police immediately resorted to their controversial tactics involving tear gas- even in such close proximately to the hospital’s entrance.
Yesterday’s protests marked as the biggest protests since Gezi Park. Thousands flocked to the streets in several districts all over Istanbul as well as over dozens of cities in Turkey and even around the world.
Do to the role as an organisational tool, social media outlets are seen as threatening to the government. Merely weeks ago, PM Erdoğan passed a controversial censorship law in which he can over-ride and shut down any site at any time- without a just cause. With the protests formulating predominately through Twitter, that site was completely shutdown yesterday evening in an attempt to stop others from taking to the streets. Other main media outlets, such as Facebook and YouTube, are next on the block list.
The protests of yesterday reflect a raw, emotionally charged sentiment and both the protestors and the reaction of the police exemplify this.
The demonstrators consisted of an array of people- transcending age as well as gender lines. Demonstrators marched with pictures of Berkin Elvan as well as carried signs condemning his killers and the assumed man responsible for the operation, PM Erdoğan. As the night progressed, the numbers decreased but protestors that remained became more aggressive by embracing tactics of vandalism, throwing debris, burning trash and public property, banging on buildings, screaming, anything to get the attention of the police and provoke them.
Turkish Police reacted in a way that has strangely become routine. Crowd control with men on the crowd firing tear rubber bullets and tear gas, men manning the TOMA water cannons, and hundreds waiting in armored police buses on-call. Even with the emotional tension being so pungent one could almost smell it in Istanbul’s air, the insecure government’s right hand could not play a passive role and was forced to play a mildly aggressive one to be a more equally matched and have a chance against the protestors.
Mass protests are expected to increase as the week progresses with foreshadowed images of correlating violence.
Today marks a new day- Berkin Elvan’s funeral service is this afternoon which will be followed by expected violence from the same force that took the youngster’s life. Already, the voice of sirens echo round the city and over power the call to prayer. As the work week wanes, it can be anticipated that protests will get progressively worse.
The protest commenced today (12 March 2014) at 12:00 as it surrounded Elvan’s funeral service at Okmeydani Cemevi. The funeral procession will proceed from Şişli Square to Feriköy cemetery at 15:00 followed by protests increasing in size as the day progresses.
(Şişli/Feriköy, İstanbul, Türkiye)