Eyewitness report from Turkey June 17

Workers World received this report June 17 from our correspondent in Turkey’s third biggest city, who calls the government’s brutal attack on Gezi Park on June 15 the biggest so far. This is the second of Cakir’s reports. The first can also be found at workers.org.

On 15 June, President Recep Erdogan told the demonstrators: “We have our meeting at Kazlicesme tomorrow. Before it, if you don’t leave the park, we will remove you with police.” After this meeting with Erdogan, Taksim Dayanisma (Taksim Solidarity) decided to remove the tents, leaving only one as a symbol. But the police didn’t wait for the resisters to remove their tents. They attacked immediately.

This time the attack was much more brutal than earlier. The police used pepper gas bombs, pressurized water — which contained some chemicals — and rubber bullets. On June 17,  the governor said that it was not chemicals in the water, it was a kind of medicine. The police even gassed a hotel, the Divan Hotel, which had allowed the doctors to use its lobby as a emergency room.

The cops did this even though journalists, German Green Party leader Claudia Roth, doctors, women, children and seniors were present. The police gassed and attacked the people demonstrating.

During that night more than 30,000 people were on the street, coming from different directions from different neighborhoods, all heading to Taksim. From Gazi Mahallesi, more than 5,000 people were on the street. In Alibeykoy, 2,000 people were heading to Taksim. Also from Besiktas, more than 2,000 people were protesting the attack. Also from the Asian side of the Bosphorus Strait, people were heading to Taksim.

When people all over Turkey heard that the police had seized Gezi Park, they poured into the street in the other cities. In Ankara, the capital, more than 10,000 people were on the street. Police were about to attack the crowd when four representatives to parliament from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the second majority party in the Turkish parliament, went there and sat down in front of the demonstrators. So everyone sat down, and the police didn’t attack.

The night before, police had attacked Kugulu Park. People were holding a vigil and had their tent to show their solidarity with Gezi Park. Also from the beginning, in Ankara, when people were heading to Kizilay Street, police had attacked every night using pepper gas and pressurized water. In Adana, Izmir, Tunceli, Samsun, in every corner of Turkey, people showed their anger.

In Eskisehir, more than 30,000 demonstrated their solidarity with those resisting in Gezi park. On the morning of June 17, police attacked the Eskisehir vigil.

At the same time, the big unions and organizations: DISK (the Revolutionary Workers Unions Confederation), KESK, (the Public Laborers Union Confederation), the doctors’ union and the engineer’s union, went on general strike and called a demonstration. Interior Minister Muharrem Guler said that this was against the law and police could use everything, even guns and bullets. Also, some secretly organized people attacked the demonstrators with knives and bats around Taksim in Istanbul.

After June 15, in one day more than 500 people were arrested. Ismail Boyraz, from the Human Rights Association (IHD), said that before June 12, some 7,517 people were wounded, 2,524 people were in custody and six killed. According to the Turkish doctor unions, before June 15, some 11,000 people were wounded. At the very brutal attack of June 15 and the days following no one knows how many. The number may have doubled, even tripled.

Among the resisters, there is a group called Charshi; they are football fans, supporters of the Besiktas team. Its members played a very important role in this resistance. For this, two of the founders of this group were arrested and accused of leading an illegal organization for personal profit.

Some doctors who were treating the wounded people during this resistance were arrested. On June 16 in Ankara, police didn’t allow people participating in Ethem Sarisuluk’s funeral to go where he was killed; they attacked the people.

The health minister said the doctors who have been treating the wounded people were committing a crime. The doctors responded, “We were committing a crime, and we are proud of doing it.”