Istanbul Closed by the Government: Protestors Hit With Tear Gas by the Police

Istanbul Riot Police

In Turkey, May 1st, is labour day. I am currently residing in Istanbul and teaching English for a couple of months. Due to the public holiday, yesterday was a vacation for all schools and many businesses. I received an email, late in the evening the night before declaring that, “All public transportation is suspended from 05:00 am on and there is no information about how long that suspension will be.” For fear of clashes, the Turkish government closed public transport for the holiday in an attempt to stop people reaching Taksim Square where they feared that unions were attempting to organise a protest.

I live close to Taksim, the unofficial centre of Istanbul. As I stood in my apartment, I heard shouting outside and ran to my balcony to see hundreds of protestors marching towards the square and chanting. Despite being warned to stay away, I was interested to see what happened and an hour later, I headed to Taksim to investigate.

The clashes resulted in violence after demonstrators tried to break through police barriers in order to reach Taksim. The police released water cannons and tear gas into the crowd, while also making 72 arrests. At least 28 people were injured in the confusion and police later reported 22 police injuries after stones and fireworks were thrown into the police ranks.

The government cited renovation work as the reason for closing the square (according to the BBC). While I have heard some ridiculous things in Turkey and some blatant lies, this is one of the most ridiculous things that I have heard. I tried to get to Taksim square myself, but I was stopped by the police, several hundred metres short. Here are a few photos of the streets of Istanbul yesterday.

Notice the deserted streets, people carrying gas masks in anticipation of tear gas, and the heavily armed police who made blockades across my area. While seeing police in Istanbul has been commonplace for me, I am used to seeing hundreds. Yesterday, there were thousands.

A normally deserted street that had been blocked off. Presumably this blockade would have been used to kettle the protestors on the main street.
A normally deserted street that had been blocked off; presumably this blockade would have been used to kettle the protestors on the main street
For the police of Istanbul, it was a regular occurrence and some waved as I took photos.
For the police of Istanbul, it was a regular occurrence and some waved as I took photos
This normally heaving street, was completely deserted.
This normally heaving street, was completely deserted
A journalist carrying a gas mask in anticipation of the police's usage of tear gas
A journalist carrying a gas mask in anticipation of the police’s usage of tear gas
Heavily armed police
Heavily armed police
Reporters carrying gas masks
Reporters carrying gas masks
More gas masks
More gas masks
Police playing on their phones beside riot shields as they wait for nothing
Police playing on their phones beside riot shields as they wait for nothing
Police waiting idly a few minutes walk from my apartment
Police waiting idly a few minutes walk from my apartment

2 Comments

  • I was leaving Istanbul on 1 May and nearly had a heart attack when I discovered that even the Havatas shuttle, which claimed it would still operate from Sisli-Mecidiyekoy, was suspended. The police weren’t so friendly to me though – one was very sarcastic when I took out my camera to snap some photos. It was all very surreal, but I’m glad for that experience on my last day in the city.

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