June 2, Gezi Park

I thought that the second couldn’t possibly go as well as the first, so I was glad of the chance to go with Z, who’s been every night since Thursday and knows the ropes. Z has been gassed 8 times so far and pulled a policeman who was beating up a protester off and kicked him down, and I felt safe. We went with a group of girls from work, catching the 8:00 p.m. ferry from Kadiköy to Eminönü. From there we took the T1 to Kabataş. 

Kabataş was quiet- there was the normal line of taxis in front of the iskele. Couples were having tea in the tea shop. People looked bored. 

Again, the weirdest thing about this whole experience is how close to violence everything is normal. 

We walked on a bit, and met up with a milling crowd where the road turns up towards the Beşiktaş stadium. We bathed our faces with vinegar and stripped chunks of peel from our lemons. Then we waited, scarves wound round our necks to be pulled up at a moment’s notice, less effective cheap gas masks at the ready.

Revolution is often boring, and it smells bad.

My glasses are the wrong prescription, and I can’t see well at night so I never, in the whole evening, saw a cop, but I think at that point they were gathering down the road.

People streamed down from Taksim to join us. Watching this happening is amazing. I know that twitter informs people of where to be, and that word spreads, but watching what must have been two or three thousand people working together seemingly on instinct brought to mind how bees can work towards a common purpose without communicating as we know communication. There was something larger than any of us there. Call it the spirit of the hive.

Boys started working together to build barricades.

Mom-before you freak out I’ve done my risk assessment. Building barricades while the police kill time and organize themselves? Not risky. Guarding those barricades? Guaranteed chemical warfare/getting beaten up/possible arrest and detention (whatever that means- time will tell)  scenario. That’s a young man’s game. Build and run and always have three exit strategies is my motto. 

The girls got anxious so we moved back. More people flooded down and they felt safer so we joined the throng and were pretty promptly gassed and retreated. 

Koş means run, and when you hear it you run. You don’t sit there and ask why: you’ll be trampled if nothing else. After a few of these we retreated to the bridge overlooking the B-taş stadium and watched. The air was still super smokey and everyone was asking to have milk squirted in their faces. 

Another thing that has struck me about this whole experience is how kind everyone is to one another in these situations. Need milk? No problem. Lost your friends? Hang out with us. Need a cell phone? Use mine. 

“Please be careful,” a lady said to me at one point after I complimented her on her proper gas mask. “This isn’t your fight.”

“It is, though,” I said. “I like my life here. I like my job, I like my community, I have friends and roots. I’m fighting for my life here.”

“Thank you,” she said. “It means so much, to have foreigners here.” 

The action was pretty spread out, and I don’t know exactly what happened in the front lines so to speak, but soon grim looking young men were staggering up the hill, trailing snot. 

We retreated again to the place with the busted up buses, where the mood was festive. There’s a Hyatt there which is friendly to protesters, allowing them use of their facilities. People were just killing time. Everyone had the same idea to have their pictures taken in the buses- one person sitting in the driver’s seat, one pretending to flash her bus pass at the smashed up reader. One dude had pulled down the handicap ramp from another bus and was having fun riding his motorcycle up and down it. We sat and smoked for a while. Then Z got a call and said, all business-like, 

“Okay. Gezi Park. Now.”

“What’s going on?”

“This is a trap. The police are going to use this area as a trap and gas the shit out of everyone. I want you guys in the park.” 

So we went up the hill and sat in the grass in the park, which is, mama, totally safe. The air was festive. There was a lot of dancing. The hotel adjoining it was acting as a supply house to the protesters. 

I stayed for another half hour and then insisted on making my move towards home. Staying in the park overnight, again, is a young man’s game. I’d come totally exhausted and then moved bricks and rebar and metal poles. I’d been gassed and had had to run. I do not like running. My natural tendency is to sit. 

It was time to go home. 

D. went with me. We were halfway to Mecediyeköy when she got the text that Beşiktaş, where we’d been chilling when Z got the call to move, was under attack. 

Many people were arrested. 

Someone stole a digger and drove it at police lines, Z confirmed with me this morning. (A student insists that’s a picture from Syria.) 

Two of my students who showed up hollow eyed this morning were there as well, repeatedly gassed. 







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