Taksim Square: The escalation

The somewhat surreal peace that was hovering over Gezi Park was suddenly broken early on Tuesday morning (June 11) as the Police broke in to clear the Square. Tear gas and water cannons violently awoke the peaceful crowd that was about to start their day inside Gezi Park. 
Clashes followed, with some breaks during the afternoon that seemed to lead to a settlement of the issue. A peaceful demonstration got scheduled for the evening but very soon it turned for the worst: at 8:30 pm armored police cars showed up again, and with them came back water cannons, tear gas and pepper spray. All of a sudden people started running all over the place, more hastily and scarily than in the morning. They all wore gas masks and held bottles of water (or milk) to cope with the effects of the gases. The air was hard to breath, eyes would turn itchy after just a few seconds outdoors. 

It was the beginning of what has thus far been the harshest night of confrontation between the protesters and the police instructed by Prime Minister Erdogan.

 Around 8:15am we saw the first clouds of smoke rising from Taksim Square, following the police intervention.

 Shortly after the white ones came red clouds of pepper spray.

 The first clashes began

 and some protesters started responding,

and sparks of fire started twinkling in the air. 

Tensions kept rising. 

Clouds of gas bombs multiplied 

and reached further out of the Square. 

 Protesters, observers and passers-by started running away from Taksim

while a vast contingent of policemen started walking out of the Square
(A taxi driver I talked to shortly after told me there were some 5,000 policemen versus some 10,000 protesters.) 

moving into nearby roads 

 patrolling side-roads

in what looked more like a manhunt. 

Later in the afternoon, while driving from the old city back to Taksim Square, dark big clouds were seen from a distance.

Getting closer to the Square, it was clear that the situation hadn’t calmed down yet. We stopped by to purchase gas masks and kept on our sunglasses as it was hard to breathe and our eyes got very itchy due to the tear gases in the air. 

 All of a sudden at about 8:35pm the situation escalated: everyone hurried away from Taksim Square

 keeping on their gas masks and carrying water against the gas.

 Those with water stopped by to help their peers who were having troubles with tear gas.

 More and more tear gases were fired by the police, increasingly targeting areas beyond the Square, getting right by our apartment window.

 Taxis – that usually lined up in queues around the Square – quickly ran away,

and so did those who were in the Square and neighborhoods. 
In less than 15 minutes the whole area was suddenly empty: no car and people were to be seen, while clouds of smoke mushroomed around.

My flight was due in 3 hours, while my family was to leave the day after. 
With the air becoming unbearable inside the apartment, taxis having left and no indication that things would calm down anytime soon, we decided to leave right away. We packed our staff, locked the apartment, put on our gas masks and sun glasses, rubbed some tiger balm under our nose (I had read it helps against tear gas and the likes – God bless tiger balm: How many times and in how many different circumstances has it rescued me!) and hit the road. No taxi was in sight but eventually we managed to stop one that was already occupied. The lady passenger was kind enough to take us onboard and thus the six of us departed, at full speed, the trunk wide open with too much luggage. 

A few hundred meters away from the Square, police squads were gathering around their armoured vehicles while everyone else, rigorously equipped with a gas mask, seemed to be getting ready to walk back to the Square.

That was the beginning of 8 hours of harsh clashes that unfolded in the night of June 11 to June 12, as Prime Minister Erdogan was declaredly “running out of patience”. 

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