Yesterday afternoon police withdrew from Taksim Square and tens of thousands of protestors flooded in.
The mood at Taksim after Erdogan called off the police was cheerful. Protesters chanted “Tayyip resign!” Turkish celebrities joined the crowds, with thousands milling around the square, waving flags, and cheering and clapping at anti-government speeches. Many drank beer in protest at the newly enacted alcohol curbs. In a surprise move last week, the government quickly passed legislation curbing the sale and advertising of alcoholic drinks, alarming secularists. Many felt insulted when Erdogan defended the legislation by calling people who drink “alcoholics.”
This morning the square is eerily quiet after the police brutality of the past few days. It is still crowded but the tension had dropped. The persistent drizzle in Istanbul today has dampened down emotions and many citizens are just tired out after so many days of struggle. However it should be remembered that most of the action has been in the afternoons and evenings.
Hundreds of people were injured in the protests, including four people who permanently lost their eyesight after being hit by gas canisters or plastic bullets, Huseyin Demirdizen of Turkey’s Doctors’ Association told The Associated Press.
Interior Minister Muammer Guler said more than 900 people were detained during the protests but some of them were released after questioning. He did not say how many were still in custody. The protest had spread to 48 cities, he added.
Erdogan is resolved to stick to the government’s redevelopment plans; which protesters fear will remove one of the few green spaces in the sprawling city.
He called the protesters a “minority” that was trying to forcefully impose demands and challenged the opposition by claiming that he could easily summon a million people for a government rally.
To call this a ‘Turkish Spring’ would be misleading. The protests were more of a warning, according to Ahmet Cigdem, a professor of sociology and political science at Ankara’s Gazi University.