Saturday night at around 9 o' clock, the Turkish police bombarded Gezi Park, visibly filled with children and parents, with tear gas. They then drove armored vehicles into the square and park, raiding the tent sites and forcing everyone out while keeping journalists away. Many tweets mentioned that the police were planting various objects in the tents they claimed to be "investigating." News of explosive devices and Molotov cocktails supposedly found in tents surfaced around 2 a.m. No one asked why people lobbying for peace would possess explosives in the heart of the movement, or why they would refrain from using weapons for the past 15 days in the face of extreme police violence.
Immediately after the police attacks, people sought refuge at Divan Hotel, just behind the park. The police proceeded to shoot tear gas into the lobby, and my news feed was flooded with countless photographs of children choking and vomiting in the hotel's stairwells.
The infirmary tent set up outside the hotel entrance? Destroyed. The medical professionals working to help people throughout Turkey in similar tents and makeshift medical outposts? All arrested pending investigation.
You might recall that many lawyers were already arrested several days ago, some removed from courthouses mid-trial by force.
Hilton Hotel was also raided, but unlike Divan, the police were able to get inside, and an eyewitness shared a photograph asking the question "Where are their helmet numbers?"
The numbers that allow individual officers to be identified had disappeared from these men's gear. Their helmets unmarked, they began detaining everyone, refugee and hotel occupant alike.
People gathered near the entrance of the 1st bridge to walk over to the European side, and were attacked by the police on the highway. They resisted and were able to cross the bridge on foot around 4:30 a.m.
The police also raided a hospital in Taksim, Alman Hastanesi, and forced medical staff to give up protesters, but luckily the staff resisted. The police also used water cannons in the atrium and shot tear gas at the hospital's main entrance.
I was in Besiktas, where people were chanting in support of the protesters. I then went to Nisantasi, where people built barricades but their attempts were cut short as tear gas canisters began to rain down on us and everyone sought shelter, stray dogs and kittens wobbling in a park while a doctor stationed in a playground was packing his gear to move elsewhere. A man was shouting "Solüsyon!" with teary eyes, the word used in reference to a mixture of antacid medication and water. It helps with tear gas burns. I removed the small bottle I had prepared and sprayed the minty solution towards his eyes, before hopping into a friend's car.
We drove to Osmanbey, one of the major avenues that leads to Taksim Square. Piles of stones, trash bins, and metal grates served as makeshift roadblocks, and there were fires set up on alternating sides of the road. Someone shouted, and we saw a gas canister land no more than 5-feet away. Someone grabbed it and threw into the fire as people began chanting in protest.
Tear gas, perhaps due to its continuous use for 15 days now, has lost meaning. Despite my mask, when the cloud reaches you, it is as though your tongue is hit by an electrical current that races to your throat and begins to burn, crawling up to your sinuses and into your eyes. What is most surprising, however, is that the pain you feel when you try to breathe is nothing compared to the powerful burning sensation on your face. The closest I can come to describing it would be getting slapped with a sunburn. Repeatedly.
The water cannon the police have been using contains chemicals that cause burns and scab tissue to form, and people still wearing their clothes after being doused with the chemicals begin to choke after a while.
I would love to know when Turkey imported so much tear gas, when our police force doubled in size, and at what point they've been authorized to eschew the Geneva Conventions and attack children and the wounded.
More updates to come following the 1 million march to Taksim Square at 4 p.m.
All photographs are courtesy of OccupyGeziPics.