Last night’s protest kicked off early. I was apparently still napping when the march started, and I barely had time to shovel food into my face and change my dress and run to the bull before the marchers met up with the protesters on Bahariye. Again, lots of cheering all around, lots of support from the cars even though we were blocking a main thoroughfare, lots of people giving us peace signs from the buses. And then we set off down wedding dress horror row, towards the metrobus.
We sat down for a bit while others ran down to redirect traffic and then we took off again, down an empty street, towards the cops.
The madness began by the train station when some çapulcus broke into a construction site and grabbed whatever they could get their hands on for barricades, which wasn’t much because the site was still in the “big hole in the dirt” stage of construction. The fellas who broke in kindly closed the fence when they were done.
A barricade was constructed, hastily, and then there we were: staring down the police.
This is something that annoyed me last night, aside from, you know, the police being utter dicks. The barricade design was ATROCIOUS. No thought, no planning, nothing it wouldn’t take a toma half a minute to drive over, even when on fire. Earlier, I’d spent some time smoking and staring at the space that has been left across the street from my apartment where a small building was demolished recently and thinking, “okay. Perfect barricade. Take those two chunks of concrete and place them between planters, in such a position that their sloping ends are towards the back. Put that bit of fence-like rebar in front. Put those boards in front of that. Fill the back with those sacks of broken concrete, dig up bricks from the sidewalk and we’re done.” (Why and how are the planets aligned that I was even thinking this?) I tried several times to lead some of the more enthusiastic barricade builders to the spot, and made several attempts to point out that spacing concrete planters in parallel lines several feet from each other actually makes it easier to knock them down, but no one ever listens to me.
After a standoff of about fifteen minutes, while the police were warning us to disperse through megaphones and people were setting the barricades on fire and then (delightfully) setting fireworks off in the fires, the first two barricades went over like dominoes under a toma, and cops swarmed towards us. It was the only time during the evening I felt afraid.
But we all scurried back to Bahariye and the fun began.
Eventually I began to feel thirsty, so I wandered home, first checking in on Hannah to make sure she was home safe and her windows were closed, and then I ducked into a cafe for a beer.
I lied earlier. I was scared twice. The other time was in the cafe. Someone ran in and shouted and the cafe owner made everyone get into the basement, cause cops were swarming down my street, and if they entered the cafe and found our gear, we could have all been arrested, or worse. It is the only time in my life I’ve ever been frantically looking around and wondering, if worse came to worse, would it be better to climb into the duct or hide in that cupboard?
Then I wandered back out onto Bahariye, where I made friends with a nice fella who was standing with a huge bottle of tear gas solution waiting for people to run from teargas so he could squirt them down. We chatted about this and that while waiting for the next round of pop pops. A kiddo came up to me, I’m guessing his first protest, and asked me about where I’m from, and told me about how he wants to go to Boston.
“Can I ask you something?” he said nervously, finally.
“How can you stand it? The gas really affects my eyes!”
“Okay, take this,” I touched the red scarf around his chin, “and get someone to pour some of that white solution in it. When I see the gas I put that tight up against my eyes and nose and I breathe through my mouth. And drink coke- it helps with your throat.”
“Wow, you have a system.”
“And keep calm. It’s really important to keep calm. People will help you.”
He grinned and wandered off and my friend said,
“Coke, huh? Haven’t heard that one.”
“Totally works,” I said. “Or am I just telling people that in an attempt to spread American Imperialism?”
That’s the thing. Mom’s super concerned about me going out alone, but you’re never, ever alone when you’re çapulcuing. I chatted and joked with dozens of folks last night, and there was always someone keeping an eye on me.
I wandered away from my new friends to the front lines, so to speak, and what I saw was disturbing.
What I’ve really valued about the Gezi movement is that it’s been pretty peaceful on our side. Oh you have your odd provacateur, and some incidents happen, like when Z was briefly the sexiest man in the world in my eyes after he pulled a cop who was beating up a civilian off and kicked the shit out of him. (Swoon.) But for the most part protests have been clever and colorful and lively. Apparently that’s gone out the window in Kadiköy. Apparently we’re at war.
Yup. All those dudes have slingshots and man were they using them.
Bottles, rocks, anything.
I’m not sure how I feel about that.
After I’d picked up, like, my seventeenth boyfriend of the evening, (ma, serriously, quit worrying. I never do anything unescorted, and at night when the çapulcus fight the police the normal harassment of unaccompanied ladies stops.) a charming Armenian shoe salesman, I decided to wander down to Yoğurtçı Park, where I heard people were gathering. We had a time making it. The side streets were full of gas.
Armenia didn’t even have a scarf with him, and even with my breathe through the mouth trick I was quickly overcome. I was dragged down the street, half blind, by two or three guys, and then someone shouted “Polis geliyor! Polis geliyor!” and someone threw open a door and I was stumbling downstairs into someone’s apartment.
There were perhaps thirty people packed into a living room, waiting. We chatted and joked in low voices and I got shushed three times for laughing. This is what my feet looked like, by the way.
When the coast was clear, we wandered out onto the street and I said goodbye to the Armenian and strolled away from the chaos, to Yoğutçı park, which was all but deserted. And then I went home.
Everyone is predicting that tonight will be worse, and the weekend absolutely awful. I don’t dare think about the future.
Tonight, however, I will be returning, however briefly, to my regularly scheduled life. My comedy group is having its first meeting of the season, and we must have a much gentler power struggle. Then I’m going to finally catch up on Breaking Bad.
See you at the weekend, comrades.