Istanbul, May 3
Yesterday there was a surprise demonstration by some of the left wing parties and unions. About a thousand people maybe. They gathered at the end of the main street leading to Taksim Square, the street that used to be lined with little Greek and Armenian shops. (Long time ago. First the Greeks and the Armenians were forced out, then the little shops were forced out, now it’s a big brand shopping street like everywhere else).
We march. Police were heavily present at the back and at the front. They don’t attack because of the tourists. But they are intimidating as always with their helmets, shields, Kalashnikovs, and water cannon trucks.
Along the way you can watch some amazing scenes. There’s a woman covered in a black burqa filming our procession with an iPad. People from one of the kemalist fringes throw flowers from the windows. The ‘Crazy Turks’, another kemalist fringe, opposed to any kind of peace agreement with the Kurds, had duly fled when we came by, chanting in Kurdish.
It’s a day late, but we take Taksim. To prove a point. To protest against the police aggression of the day before and to commemorate the victims of the 1977 massacre.
Police is in full riot gear. The water cannons are simple municipal cleaning vehicles fitted with armour plating and a turret. Menacingly, the cannon follows the movement of the crowd. The sun sets, the wailing voice that calls people to prayer in the mosque drowns out the revolutionary chants. Then it’s over. People start to disperse.
My brother Memed is son of a proud revolutionary family. When we return to the Asian side, his father tells a symbolic tale of one of his comrades. A man who fought the government all through the seventies, who had been imprisoned and tortured more than once. A man who had dug a tunnel with a spoon to escape. He was still here on Mayday, sixty years old, as uncompromising a revolutionary as ever. He was hit by a tear gas cannister in the chest. Luckily, he had a credit card in the pocket over his heart which tempered the impact. Thanks to capitalism, he’s okay.