The mood was anxious and bleak – the mood of a city before a siege. Up, at the top of the steps leading into Gezi Park, dark shadows in hardhats patrolled the makeshift barricades, nervously scanning the movement of the riot police and water cannon vehicles at the opposite ends of Taksim Square. Inside the park, under the plane trees and blooming lindens, supply tents were already stacked up with boxes of crackers and water bottles. Volunteer doctors swiftly assembled first aid kits on a table. Fire extinguishers and shovels stood ready in one corner. Preparation was key. Earlier that day, Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – Gazdogan, as he had been recently renamed on the walls of surrounding buildings – had issued his “final warning:” get out of the park or suffer the consequences of the government’s wrath.
But nobody was leaving. The danger had only brought people closer: anarchists and socialists and Kurds and liberals and conservatives and environmentalists and LGBT activists. At three o’clock on Friday morning Gezi Park was full of young people, many of them wide awake in small pools of light, chronically checking their phones and laptops and tablets, others playing backgammon to pass the time, smoking, strumming guitars, or reading for their university exams. A small crowd had gathered by the stage in the center of the park to learn the results of the negotiation talks between Erdogan and representatives of the protesters. Less troubled souls were already sleeping in their tents, on benches, and on colorful blankets spread out on the ground, as if in a mosque.
The attack never came that night. Gezi Park was to survive another day, though its future remained uncertain.
Outside, by the Ataturk Monument on Taksim square, the pianist Davide Martello, aka Klavierkunst, was performing a live concert. Both protesters and police were listening enchanted, suspending for a moment their animosity. As long as the music played, there wouldn’t be any violence. For 1001 nights.