The scent of tear gas-Erkan and İdil exposed to tear gas

Note to the reader: We would like to specify that we do not condone any of the acts of violence portrayed in this article. We were at the event as objective observers.
The 2nd Note to the reader: This entry is published a bit late because I had to urgently fly to Izmir for family reasons, my apologies.

The 3rd Note: The main narrator is İdil. Erkan intervenes from time to time:)
The 4th Note: Erkan could not transfer a photo for which there is one more day of delay and the photo can still not be uploaded:(

While cruising in a shopping mall that I shall not name (but that everyone knows I hate), I got a call from Erkan who happened to be at Starbucks at the same time as me. He was there with two of his friends; Ayla and Erol. They sat by me and my friend Muge and after the introductions, we found out that they were headed to a protest organized against Israel and the attacks on Lebanon. I decided to tag along and be an active observer at the event.

protest.jpg

We took the metro and arrived in Taksim 15 minutes later. Erkan’s friend Erol being an activist and insider, thought that the protest started in Taksim square. It was pretty puzzling because the square was full of passer by’s and no protestors were to be seen. We headed towards Galatasaray, just in case the protest was held down there. Erol and Erkan were in constant contact with friends who were already at the event. Once arrived at Galatasaray, we were greeted by at least 50 police officers pretending to be Robocops and a couple of civil police officers (pretending to be FBI agents) who were eyeing everyone suspiciously. We finally found the group and soon enough saw Erol disappear in the crowd. Erkan and I stood on the side and listened to the slogans for a while. There were many political groups represented, some of those I remember:
ESP
DSP
HalkEvleri
Kaldirac
SODAP
Halkin Gucu

While cruising in a shopping mall that I shall not name (but that everyone knows I hate), I got a call from Erkan who happened to be at Starbucks at the same time as me. He was there with two of his friends; Ayla and Erol. They sat by me and my friend Muge and after the introductions, we found out that they were headed to a protest organized against Israel and the attacks on Lebanon. I decided to tag along and be an active observer at the event.

Erkan: Just for the records, I, too, only aimed to be an active observer! I did like the way the protestors were organized. Colorful with the flags of organizations they belong. There were more than 20 groups attending the protest. I have no doubt they had long discussions about the order of the march. Who will go first, who will be second, etc…

Most of them seemed extremely angry. Even though, I must admit, they seemed angrier at America and Imperialism than at Israel bombing Lebanon. Far into the protest, a couple of members from the group called ESP (Ezilenler Sosyalist Partisi) and some members of DHKPC started removing stones from the pavement (a common tactic of theirs apparently) and threw them onto the floor to create small projectiles. Once they had their ammunitions, sticks and stones, they ran back into the crowd of protestors and suddenly attacked the police with said ammunition.

Erkan: The next day BIANET accused the police as usual. However, I don’t believe the police was that wrong. Yes, the security forces used too much of tear gas. But that seemed to be one of the most appropriate ways to disperse the crowd which was agitated to attack the police. As Idil says, for some but not for all, Israel’s attack was just a pretext. If it was a more peaceful demonstration, the police force would allow the demonstrates stay there as much as they wanted…anyway,

That’s when all hell broke loose..
I’d like to remind you that Erkan and I were further down the road, watching the crowd from afar because we knew that at any time, it could all turn sour and that we’d have to run for cover, which didn’t take long. The demonstration was held in an already very busy street and a lot of normal civilians were trapped on the wrong side of the police barricade and they were also watching from afar or trying to get away from the side streets.
The first thing I heard was a loud explosion and screams coming from the group. People started running towards us and gas started propagating from the gas bombs that were flying in the air. The propagation was way too fast and even though we were already running for cover, Erkan and I were choking on pepper spray and whatever it is that they were gazing us with. We found ourselves in a parking lot, surrounded by gas and looking for a place to hide. Everyone was locking their doors so there wasn’t much hope there. We were lucky enough to find the parking lot guard who helped us into his little cabin and locked the door after us. We watched the people run by us while trying to get rid of the burning sensation which was taking over our faces and throats. I had a hard time not having an asthma attack and not rubbing my eyes. I only found later that rubbing your eyes, even an hour or two after, made things worse.

stones.jpg
Some protestors were busy with breaking down the pavement stones….

Erkan: I later learnt that washing face is also not a very good idea. If you are exposed to tear gas, just let it pass while pitying for yourself and asking what the hell you were doing there. There was just too much tear gas used that while I was looking for memorabilia (!), I found an unused tear gas hand grenade. Now it is at home, sits among my books. Honestly, I am scared to touch it now. What happens if it explodes? Note Idil:Did Erkan mention that we were walking down the street and while he was collecting memorabilia, he was also busy shoving them in my bag!! So at the end of the night my bag looked like I had just gotten back from war.. Note Erkan: Oh you started first! Remember the red flag in the parking lot.

Once the gas seemed to have disappeared we went back onto the street which was empty. The police was still making rounds checking to see if any protestors were still around but there were none to be seen. Lots of flags and empty gas bombs, broken glass was on the streets. It seems that no one was harmed but that the police had taken into custody 10 protestors which possibly calmed the rest down. This protest made the news the next day and was said to have gone very wrong.

1 Comment so far

  1. metecem (unregistered) on August 9th, 2006 @ 8:01 am

    hello erkan and idil,

    I hope you are both doing better today and are fit enough to carry on with life again.

    This (what you have written) is a really nice piece of work and I really appreciate the objectivity in it.

    It is always an incident like this where I seem to have a hard time in deciding who is right and who is wrong but apparently this only go wrong when some groups feel obliged to use some old “tactics”.

    I remember back then when I was 12 and working in the summer in a carpet shop (oh yes, sorry mates!) , Ismail Beşikçi leaving the DGM court in Eminönü, right opposite the Gülhane Park. I remember a huge group of protesters raising voice for him and while everything was going well, a small group throwing stones at the police which, of course, started a new dimension in that event.

    Back then the cops were not careful as today either. I, a 12 year old boy in shorts, remember getting hit by a cop (perhaps accidentally, I don’t know) on the back of my leg and falling down immediately and not able to get up, let alone walk away. Some customers rushed and carried me back into the shop again.

    This may sound pretty fascist to some of you but somehow I perceive the stone-throwers as rainworms, they only come out when it’s wet enough and disappear again.

    Thank you for the information about the tear gas and what not to do. Who knows when we might be needing it?



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