Unity in Diversity: The June Uprising (a.k.a. Gezi Uprising) of Turkey

2nd Stage: Occupation
While the clashes went on in other cities of Turkey and other districts of Istanbul, a new stage began around Taksim Square and Gezi Park on June 1 as the police forces were withdrawn from Taksim Square as a result of one day long clashes. Thousands of people crowded the square and the park. It was surprising for the protesters to be keeping the entire square and park police-free and under their control for the first time in the history of Turkey. It was the second stage that would continue until the 14th of June. At the beginning of the month, attempts were made to turn the square and park into self-organized public spaces free from government control. The uprising was now something that went beyond the simple issue of protecting a park. Transforming a city square into a living space for thousands of people and being able to stand united against the potential attacks of the government needed the organized efforts of the protesters. Demands had to be raised and the general will for resistance had to be emphasized. However, there was no such a central organ that could represent them.  So an already existing umbrella organization that was established one year before the uprising, the “Taksim Solidarity” was transformed into the spokesperson of the resistance. Taksim Solidarity was now the main coordination and communication centre of the uprising. Same day the components of the Solidarity came together and decided on a 4 article demands list:

Gezi Park should remain as a park. We are not going to permit the construction of Artillery Barracks, nor we will let you pillage our natural and living spaces.

Primarily the Ministry of Interior, Governor of Istanbul, Head of Security and all the people responsible from this violence should resign. The use of gas bombs should be banned.

Our friends under custody because of their participation to the resistance should immediately be released and no investigation should be launched against them.

The bans on meetings and demonstrations should be lifted for all the squares in Turkey, primarily Taksim

(Taksim Dayanışması,  2013).

The masses in Taksim made it clear that they were not going to end the occupation until these demands are met. An intense activity began to clear the premises, rebuild the barricades in order to prevent another police attack and construction of an alternative living space slowly came into the agenda. The protesters occupied the square until the 11th and the park until the 15th. In those 10 to 14 days of time, Gezi Park was turned into a habitation zone and a cultural centre for the uprising. Protesters quickly set a makeshift hospital and a kitchen where the visitors of Gezi Park could receive first aid and free food. There was also a “Gezi Garden” in which the environmentalists started to grow organic plants and vegetables. “The Revolution Shop” was established after large amounts of free stuff started to flow towards the Gezi Park and this shop distributed everything for free.

During the first days of the uprising police violence killed 3 people: Mehmet Ayvalıtaş, Ethem Sarısülük and Abdullah Cömert. As I will explain, they and the other two martyrs of the uprising had played an important role in the attempts to create a unified culture of resistance together with Taksim Solidarity. They were transformed into the symbols of the resistance and a monument for the martyrs were also located in the park.

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