Istanbul: Before the Tear Gas

Posted by on May 4, 2014 in Feature, International News, News, Politics | No Comments

via TPM News

Football fans threw smoke bombs on İstiklal Caddesi

The orange smoke billowed upwards, blocking out the buildings of Istanbul’s grandest boulevard. Riot cops lined up in front of a water cannon. The protesters could not go forward. They would not go back.

Fans of Istanbul’s three main football teams- Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, and Beşiktaş – have shared enmity nearly since the clubs were formed. But since the 2013 Gezi protests, which came to symbolize the battle against state authoritarianism, they’ve united. They share one enemy now, the police.

It’s April 20th, I’m with them on the streets of Turkey’s largest city, as they protest a new e-ticketing system for games. Now, to buy a ticket, a fan must first purchase a special debit card displaying his or her photo and identifying information. If he chants political slogans, he can be tracked. Surveillance sold as convenience. Passolig, the company that came up with this gem, is owned by a friend of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Used to battling cops at games, football fans formed Gezi’s frontlines. Now, the police are so afraid they plead with protestors to please disperse. “Children of whores,” the fans chant back. It’s a sweet change from the last few years of New York demonstrations, where cops often forced demonstrators into pens, beat them, and arrested them like cattle. Next to hundreds of football fans spoiling for a fight, I finally feel safe from the police.

I dive to the front. Amidst the A.C.A.B. (All Cops Are Bastards) scarves and E-ticket fuck no graffiti spray-painted on the sidewalks, a masked boy holds up a flare. It burns neon. From Galatasaray gates, fans have hung a banner emblazoned with the words “There is no description for our love.” Flyers fluttered like ten thousand birds.

The riot cops advance. The fans flee, pursued by special sports police. In the smoke, a water-cannon rolls forward. It aims, fires, dripping water like a spent cock.

A street-cleaning vehicle follows, sucking up flyers. Except for the parked water cannon, within a half hour, not a trace of the protest remains.

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