So there I was, sitting on my balcony having an after work treat of a glass of ice cold white wine with sliced cherry and apricot “ice cubes” in it, relaxing with a book when the sound of the crowds got too much for me and I had to move.
And honestly, Erdoğan? Fuck you. Fuck you and your stubborness and delusions of mandate because otherwise I would have capped off my poor man’s sangria with a nap. But no- you have to be recalcitrant in the face of dissent. What doesn’t bend will break, sir. Mark my words.
So I wandered out. I wasn’t sure whether the protest was by the ferries or in yoğutcı park, and sound bounces around so, so at every intersection I closed one ear and then the other, til I decided they were by the ferries and then I marched.
All my protest buddies are gone, btw. TJ to America, C and Pondfrogsplash to Odessa, I think, have you guys left yet? I could’t find my phone to ask, Z to Ankara and Van, B &N to Europe, Hannah to America. Katrinka’s around, but internet is sketchy and Jesus, where did I put my phone? Oh yeah. I remember. It’s charging in room H at school, which is closing in fifteen minutes. Such is life.
Anyhoosit, crowds got thicker as I walked through the fish market down to the Çarşı, and I found them all at that big intersection in front of the ferries. (Why bother learning street names when none of the streets are marked? I’m a big proponent of both economy of motion and economy of knowledge.) I weaved my way through a thick crowd surrounding some extraordinarily talented drummers and stood and watched them for a few minutes.
Again, I cannot stress enough the make-up of the crowds. In Yoğurtçı park, yes, the gang seems mostly socialist academic types- girls with flowey skirts in earthy tones and boys with beards. (Try going there sometime, btw, searching for your tall, dark skinned friend with a beard, wearing cargo shorts and a printed teeshirt in a dark color. Where’s Waldo to the nth.) I turned a full circle at one point and saw, thick around me, mostly middle aged folks, waving flags high above their heads with an expression on their faces that I’ve only known here, now, 2/3rds grim determination, 1/3rd pride, unabashed of the status of their middle aged triceps, interspersed with girls wearing those horrible synthetic tops with gratuitous zippers that are all the rage in the cheap shops this year, young fellas wearing knock-off Lacoste, some elderly types standing by the sidelines.
Do you know who does not wear this year’s atrocity with gratuitous zippers? Commie agitators. Do you know who does not wear leopard print when they are both far too old and stout to do so? Anarchist agitators. I rest my case.
We would marched a few steps at a time and then the drummers would stop and start a new one, and everyone would cheer. The drummy version of Ciao Bella was a particular hit and one that I can at least sing along to, now. I went along until I saw the police checkpoints we were herding ourselves towards, and realized the whole area was surrounded with police fencing, and went, aw hell naw. I’m not walking into a gas trap, alone, wearing slides.
So I eased out of the crowd and walked around to the cultural center to reconnoiter.
The first thing I noticed was an ambulance trying to get through the crowd, sirens blazing. Since popo’ve been know to use ambulances to get troops into tight places. I watched it suspiciously. Lady in the passenger seat still had a latex glove on. A touch too much, perhaps, or actually an emergency? If an actual emergency, why try to force the wagon through a crowd many thousand strong, instead of going the longer, cleaner route through Moda? If they were headed to Şifa, far more elegant ways to do it; if Göztepe, well, there are longer ways that would take less time. Hmm.
Crossing the street I saw the Police buses lined up alongside the cultural center, behind tape, with fellas on all sides holding those plastic bullet riffles, and strapped into vests that held, I counted, 12 cans of gas each. Counted twenty. On the perimeter. There was also a city bus full of men in street wear, lounging. I continued walking.
The designated area was cordoned off by police fencing. Again, tons of old folk. Most of the youth seemed to be perched on top of the bus shelters. Everyone else seemed like a non political citizen to me.
Watched for a while. There was music on a stage I couldn’t see, and then a lady started making an impassioned speech I couldn’t make heads or tails of. I wandered back and this time, stopped casually by the police area and just watched, hopefully without appearing to watch.
I pride myself on my ability to recognize plain clothes cops. I think this has saved my hide a couple of times. Like the time that one guy asked me at the barricade where I was from and I said, without bothering to put a British accent on, “Cornwall, England,” and then lost myself in the crowd, where I saw him talking to another 40-ish dude and looking around. But it never hurts to learn more so I just stood there for a while, pretending to fumble in my bag, to learn more.
The majority were in their forties. As I’ve said before, they seem to travel in pairs. Most were wearing cicilian clothes that they seemed ill at ease in. One gruff, granite jawed fella was wearing a pink, knock-off RL shirt. There were also the youngins who mostly seemed to be wearing plaid print button downs.
I’ve often wondered, (not to offend anyone reading who may be or may be related to a policeman) what would make a person want to BE a policeman. In Baltimore, where I’m from, the cops were corrupt, and causing more trouble than was necessary for kids putting on art shows when there was a city they should have been attending to that was but full of heroin dealers and illegal guns, rapes, drive-bys, shootings, thefts. The few times I availed myself to the police, after a mugging, say, or a break-in, they were remarkably unhelpful, but the three times an undercover got served two fingers of warm, bottom-shelf chardonay at an art gallery, at least ten of my friends were in custody for 50 hours.
Here, of course, it’s worse.
Not the violence. The police.
Wending my way back through the crowd I saw a strapping girl in a police vest walking her way through the crowd with only grim determination on her face. She was holding a wickedly long batton.
I had to pee.
I missed my book.
I wandered back home to write.
Another thing I noticed: At the back of the police encamptment I saw a couple youngies walk between the buses and the wall, and popo running towards them. I worried and so kept an eye out as I walked around, on the chance that they were young dickheads trying their luck. If I am here at this point I should be able to see them- nope. But saw other cops walking behind the police bus I’d seen em walk behind. And then saw a police man who was unmistakably peeing against the wall.
I’ve written before about how they rile up the cops with just enough LACK of what they need. Really? No porta-potty?
Y’all are just d- nope sorry. Just felt mama looking at me. You all are just NOT NICE.