Gezi Park has become a well of resistance. Even on work days, crowds of people flock here. Everything else has been relegated to second place: work, university, travel plans. One of my department’s seminars was relocated to the park and yoga classes are being held here. For their homework and in exams, students are writing off the cuff about events unfolding around them in Turkey.
On the way there we meet a woman carrying 6 large shopping bags. We offer to help: it’s all donations. We bring them to one of the bases that have been set up here in the park. The largest is in the old tea garden. There you can find everything you need: water, food, medicine, blankets and more. A medical student I’ve got to know is helping the medical team. One table is full of donated medicines, particularly Talcid, vinegar and milk – the key ingredients for treating victims of a gas attack. They’ve even built a stretcher to bring those with injuries straight here.
There’s also a kitchen here in the tea garden where they’re distributing free food. But there’s no need to come here to eat, because as soon as you find a free patch of grass to sit down, someone will come and dish out food and drink.
More and more people are bringing useful things to the park, as things get established in this new fortress. They’re setting up beds, stringing up hammocks. There’s music, dancing and singing: ‘Bella Ciao’ is right up there. One group gives a dance performance, there are various workshops on offer, and all around are decorated trees and graffiti.
In one corner, they’re digging the soil over to set up a garden. Some friends of mine went to Eminönü, quite a way from the centre of the action, to get hold of spades, soil, tomato plants and other such items. Much of it was donated when they said what they intended to do with it. In another corner they’re setting up a small library. The materials for all this great creative activity are easy to come by, because the park is right next to a huge construction site where you’ll find everything you could possibly need in abundance: sheet metal, wooden boards, nails, stone, wire, steel and more besides.
The Attatürk Cultural Centre in Taksim Square has been empty due to renovation work and so has also been occupied without further ado, as it’s in the secured zone. Flags and banners have been hung up and two musicians are making the most of the acoustics to play the violin.
Today I did a large circuit around the occupied area to take it all in. The barricades are impressive in one of the largest access roads to Taksim: there are 14 barricades, one after another. All the traffic that normally passes this way is somehow finding another route without organised diversions.
These are some of the incredibly important positive aspects of the resistance against the government and its restrictive laws. Not all cities have this kind of situation. There have been violent clashes in Ankara, Izmir and other major cities. In 90 other towns, the protests have remained peaceful: perhaps the police there are not so well equipped with gas and water cannons. In Istanbul, the night is not without tear gas. I hear shots and a friend tells me that she was gassed at Gümüssuyu. A helicopter is circling above the park and I can hear the whistles and sirens that it triggers even here in my apartment. Though I’m tired, I simply have to go back to the park and gain sustenance from this impressive well of resistance.