Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Monday, February 10, 2014

Internet Censorship Protests in Istanbul

The parliament in Turkey has passed a law that allows the telecom authority in Turkey to order web sites to be blocked without a court order.  On Saturday there were protests against this law, and the protests spread to Cihangir, the Istanbul neighborhood where I am staying.  I went out to get something to eat Saturday night.  I had been hearing some fireworks (which apparently the protesters were using). Just a few blocks from the apartment I encountered these scenes that I was able to capture on my phone.

After people started moving back down hill (towards me) I thought it would be prudent to duck in someplace indoors quickly, which I did - the Sultanahmet Köftecici in Cihangir.  I ordered dinner and watched events unfold outside.  Right outside the restaurant, a dumpster was turned over and set on fire.  Very soon afterwards, a phalanx of riot police, in gas masks and helmets, arrived.  There were also reporters wearing gas masks and standing right behind the police.  The restaurant is on a corner and some of the protesters had gone around the corner after coming down the hill.  The police were standing on two sides of the restaurant, firing tear gas around the corner at the protesters.  While all this was going on, customers were sitting there eating, and more customers even came in to eat.  Across the street there is a kebap place where people go to eat and to drink tea and coffee, and people were still sitting outdoors there.  Today one of my classmates told me that he was over there, and stayed there until a tear gas cannister landed at his feet.  Normal life going on while all this was happening was pretty weird.

After things started getting a bit more intense, with rocks occasionally hitting the window, the restaurant herded the customers upstairs and turned out the lights.  We stayed up there a good half hour or so while the police came in with water cannon and pushed the protesters further away.  After I didn't see any more police, I paid my bill and went back to the apartment, stepping around the improvised barricades that had been built out of trash and rocks.  The coughing you hear in these videos is from teargas.  It affected all of us.  It made me cough a lot.

The remaining protesters had moved down to the end of my street, half a block away.  I just went into the store across the street, bought a few beers, and went back up to the apartment.

What the street looked like immediately afterward.

The next morning I took a walk around.   There was quite a bit of graffiti, but not a lot of property damage, except to banks.  I guess nobody likes banks.

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