Long, long day. And not just one, but two speeches by RTE (the PM). Luckily, I managed to miss them both. His first speech was at the airport, upon his arrival from Algiers via Ankara. First the AKP announced that they didn’t want an audience then I guess they changed their mind. Thousands of SMSs were sent inviting people to the airport, free bus services were arranged from all around the city, and the metro line to the airport was kept open until 4 AM. Normally, the metro shuts down at midnight. During the first few days of the protests, metro service to Taksim was stopped altogether. Let alone free bus rides, traffic was diverted away from Taksim. People came anyway.
At his airport speech, RTE was apparently as enraged as ever, declaring that the construction will not stop. His speech will be good material for discourse analysis classes in the years to come. Even the language he employs is divisive and inflammatory. The press was given pictures of the “huge” crowds, which were apparently photoshopped (see below). I’m not arguing that Erdogan is not supported by many, but the need to do this shows a certain desperation… His second speech was in the afternoon, while we were live on radio (more on this later). Apparently, it was softer and milder, and ended with a promise to tear down the Ataturk Cultural Center on Taksim (currently being renovated by the Sabanci Holding) and build “a baroque-style opera building” in its place. Someone needs to remind him that a. AKM (cultural center) is indeed an opera building and b. he announced plans to shut down all cultural activities (opera, theater, ballet, symphony) by the state.
|Greeting RTE at the airport - check out the arm|
I started out with a shift at the cinema tent 6-10 AM. The park is beautiful at that hour; not empty at all, but peaceful. Apparently people were up until the first lights of the day, making sure the police don’t appear again after the airport speech. 6-10 is the cleanup time, it’s when some are asleep in their tents, others start getting ready for the day. There were some “leftovers,” still somewhat drunk, babbling on. Park is getting somewhat stricter on alcohol, there are signs around to “remain sober,” especially at night, when the previous attacks happened. But the police have now agreed not to take any action until Monday. What happens on Monday, we do not know.
|Morning in the cinema tent - with my basil|
In the afternoon, I did my usual weekly radio program on Açık Radyo, with my co-programmer Yeşim Burul and guest İrem İnceoğlu. We talked about the representation of the protests in the media, the role of social media, and connected to two activists from Videoccupy, who are documenting the entire process. For those who can understand Turkish, here’s the link to the show.
After an evening stroll in the park, I decided I needed something else and went to Nişantaşı for the evening. Life goes on normally elsewhere in the city (even though I have to walk there because there are barricades on the way). It was really nice to be with friends and somewhere without signs and graffiti, even though we could not talk about anything else than the events and what might happen, and kept on checking our Twitter accounts. While we were there Red Hack representatives gave an interview on TV, expressing all the frustrations that are shared by all who joined the protests. (Interview here, in Turkish).
This whole process has made us all somewhat sensitive and emotional. We hug more, we say “I love you” more, we tend to get teary-eyed unusually often. With me, it’s even more personal, because that was, thankfully still is, “my park.” I was born and raised in Taksim, Gezi is where my parents took me to play – as my friends take their children now. We’ve been protesting for nearly two years, come rain or come snow, often in discouragingly small numbers. But I always had an intuition that something would happen if they tried to touch the park. I always thought “it’s not that easy.” No matter what happens now, it’s clear that it’s not that easy. I feel like the entire country has come out to support “my park;” I feel grateful and proud at the same time. And here I go with the teary eyes again…