The negotiations in Ankara with representatives of the protesters appeared to have gone reasonably well, with both sides sticking to their positions, but with the PM seeming to give enough room for the protestors to consider ending the occupation of Taksim Square and Gezi Park. The protesters started dismantling some of the barricades.
Then, on Saturday afternoon, Erdogan reverted to his original hard-line position, and demanded that the protestors leave by Sunday evening, or be removed by force. As people poured into the area for what they thought would be a last show of solidarity with those camped in the Park, the police suddenly announced that the crowds had to vacate the area immediately.
Thirty minutes later, with huge force and rubber bullets enhancing the usual tear gas and water cannons, the police attacked en masse, followed closely by bulldozers and workers to remove all traces of the occupation. The street battles went on all night, and apparently there were many injuries.
We had been in the Square only about an hour before, to begin the Istanbul Passeggiata, a long walk down Istiklal Street. There were swarms of unsuspecting people going the other way, up to the Square, with the only indication of what was to come being the very large numbers of police we saw all around the area.
By the time we got home, we were unaware that the police had moved in. However the early and more frantic pots and pans soundscape told us something big had happened, and sent us scurrying to Twitter and Al Jazeera (the only English language TV we have) to find out what was happening. It also sent us to the saucepan cupboard so we could join the solidarity sonata.
The protests continued in many parts of Istanbul today, while for its part the government outed an endless array of absurd conspiracy theories (eg, the substantial coverage of the protests by BBC-World and CNN must have been paid for by some hostile foreign interests, proving that the protests were being run by “outsiders”). They also prepared for their own very large rally of Erdogan supporters on the outskirts of the city.
After returning home this afternoon from a great day Kadiköy on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, we heard the unmistakable sound of a demonstration. Right at the end of our street, on the water’s edge, a huge march went past on its way to Dolmabahçe Palace, and the PM’s Istanbul offices.
The police were there in force, and for quite a while it looked like they would charge, but eventually things calmed down and the protestors dispersed.
As a backdrop to this confrontation, we could see specially decorated ferries on the water carrying Erdogan supporters to his very successful rally.
What seemed most obvious to us was that this political confrontation is far from over.