Latest from Istanbul protest: "Reclaiming the park made people feel very strong"
An eye-witness account from Taksim/Gezi Park, Istanbul
I received this report this morning from a friend:
"It was like hell in here. I was not able to go home tonight, I came to a friend of mine for the night.
We are very tired and it seems that the conflicts will continue tomorrow as well, so we want to be ready for it.
But I can summarize it like this: the attitude of the police is very brutal. They almost try to kill us. Today they used a different gas, which is claimed to be agent orange (banned by UN). It makes you vomit the second you inhale it. But the resistance is unbelievable. Nobody expected it. There is a great solidarity. For example yesterday I lost my friends when the police sent gas bombs to us, just in the beginning of the protest. I was alone almost all night long. I panicked at the beginning, but after a while you realize that it doesnt matter, because everybody is helping everybody out. You know that you are not alone, even if you dont know a single person around you. Today there happened a massive march towards Taksim and the police left the park and the square. Not only socialists, but everybody was there. Those groups that you wouldnt believe they could stand side by side walked to Taksim alltogether. It is not about Taksim or Gezi Park anymore. People had enough with the government. Reclaiming the park and the square today was amazing. You should have seen the atmosphere. I cannot describe it. We were just like some very excited primary school kids. People are very confident right now. We were there all night long and it was not just a protest anymore. People occupied it. Everybody is saying the same thing today: from then on, the government will not be able to do anything that easily. Reclaiming the park made people feel very strong. Right now there are still people there who will stay there till morning in case the police attacks in the morning. But today the police was very brutal in Besiktas. There are many wounded people. We tried to go there to help people but it was impossible to reach there. We saw some videos which showed the police attacking even the houses as people let the protestors in. Now they say that Besiktas is calmer. People went back to Taksim to protect the square from the police. We will rest tonight as it was exhausting for us to be in the streets for 4 days. We want to be ready for tomorrow, as it is clear that the conflicts will not end today.
Disabled Fight Back with Central London Blockade
Dozens of protesters against the Welfare Reform Bill and cuts to disability benefits and services blockaded Oxford Street on 28 January 2012. A number of wheelchair users chained themselves together at 12 noon, joined by activists from Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), UK Uncut, The Black Triangle Campaign and other disability rights groups. Traffic was stopped on Regents Street at the height of Saturday shopping.
In the words of one campaigner:
I’m here because I want to protest against the cruel cuts that are hitting the disabled horrendously in this country, that and the horrible horrible propaganda that’s been coming out from our government trying to villainise genuinely disabled people as being scroungers as being parasites, and a 75% rise in hate crimes that’s come along with that, that I experience daily. Just going out shopping people come up to me and they ask me “Do you really need to be in that wheelchair? or are you, you know, just doing it for the benefits?” Like no, no, I don’t know why anybody would want to in this day and age, even the pavements aren’t accessible half of the time in the UK.
Recent reports have shown that as a result of the bill 500,000 families stand to lose their homes while others will become ‘imprisoned in them’. Nearly half a million people would lose their Disability Living Allowance, including disabled children. People with terminal illnesses would be forced into work, and 3.2 million will be put through demanding tests that have already pushed some to take their own lives. According to their own research, the government’s flagship reform will push 100,000 children into poverty.
Earlier this month, disability rights campaigners released the Spartacus Report, which found that the government's consultation on DLA reforms was flawed and failed to meet the state's own code of practice for consultations. Furthermore, 74% of respondents in the consultation were opposed to the plans.
On arrival, the police seemed at a loss for what to do, and formed lines in front of their vans while busses were backed up along Regent Street. Generally those present described the coalition between anti-cuts campaigners and disability rights activists as welcome and encouraging, and calls were issued for more such actions to take place across the country. After two hours the activists decided to leave together, describing the action as an 'amazing success'.
Photos by Lily Poveda. Thanks to indymedia for report.
Welcome to our world of mash-up!
Richard Hering introduces our new multi-media "book" of the largest UK protest since 2003
"If I was going to start a news business tomorrow, I would start a business that was not designed to produce one new bit of news, but instead to aggregate news for individuals in ways that mattered to them." (Professor Clay Shirky - NYU)
Ten years ago, if faced, as on 26 March 2011, with the largest public protest since the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, I would have been out on the streets with my video camera, trying to capture a slivver of the excitement of that day. If I'd been well-prepared, I would have gained the trust of a direct action "affinity group" ready to do something really visual, and keen to get it seen. I would then have tried to sell this footage to the mainstream news in time for the evening bulletins, to get it watched by normal people, and to cover costs and possible legal expenses incurred by the protesters. And finally I would have lovingly crafted a short punchy film that told the story from our point of view. Capacity for social change: small.
Or else I would not have attended the protest at all, and would instead have been honing meticulous 2-page proposals for investigative documentary on Channel 4, which, if successful would send me on a long and arduous journey in return for a slot on primetime TV. Viewers: many. Personal prestige (awards etc): great. Capacity for social change: tiny.
But on March 26, I did not walk the streets of central London at all. Instead, Marc Barto and I sat scrutinizing the stream of data coming into our laptops in an improvised studio lent to us by the University of London Union. We were using the phenomenal new software Storify to compile a timeline of the day, as it happened before our glassy eyes. The latest tweets, newsy or funny or attitudinal, were carefully selected alongside the best photos, and the first videos to come in that really told a story. (These last mainly used visionOntv's video citizen journalist templates, made by members of the London Video Activist Network, guided during the day from the same studio space). Later we added an edited selection of eye-witness accounts, some by experienced journalists such as Laurie Penny of the New Statesman, and others by first-time writers being hosted by other blogs. We also added the higher-quality videos which take between a day and a fortnight to edit, such as Michael Chanan's "A Tale of Two Demonstrations" and our own Kayte Fairfax' and Shaun Firkser's brilliant "Anarchists Unmasked!" (I will review the video content from March 26 in a following article.)
The result is only one of many possible stories of this massive protest against the cuts. We have tried to reflect all points of view among the protesters, from those who marched and attended the rally in Hyde Park in the hope of challenging power through numbers, through to those who think that the only solution is deep systemic change. It puts both sides as the protesters debate the value of tactics such as damage to property. It excoriates the laughable coverage by the mainstream media. It is a genuine, multi-faceted, and multi-media, story from the grassroots, crowd-sourced from citizen writers, photographers, and film makers.
Welcome to our wonderful world of mash-up media.
Check out the March26 timeline here!