Meyhane madhouse

Suppressing the protest that never was

By Cornucopia Blog | August 4, 2013

'The demonstrators you are looking for are not answering, please try again later,' one Turkish tweeter wrote sardonically this evening in a message to the authorities. The police were out in force on Turkey's most famous street – but where were the protestors?

Saturday-night demonstrations have been a regular feature of Taksim Square this summer, but this weekend the Taksim Solidarity Platform announced on Twitter that there would be no demonstration tonight in response to requests from shopkeepers not to ruin their Saturday evening sales (a complaint that has figured prominently in the government's messages).

For some reason, though, the security forces were bristling for business, perhaps connected to the fact that a useful morning had been spent sealing off the fashionable Çukurcuma antiques district (can you imagine the impact on business if riot police started sealing off Portobello Road of a Saturday morning?) and rounding up the usual suspects (journalists, youth leaders etc, including the charismatic Turkish youth spokesman Cağdaş Cengiz).

Despite a wave of apparently bogus Facebook messages inviting Cengiz's young friends to gather at 9pm in Taksim, no one showed up – except, that is, to make merry in the cheerful meyhanes and ocakbaşıs of Beyoğlu.

Probably the most provocative thing these canny masters of passive resistance could do.

Protesters or no protesters, it was business as usual for the men in dark blue. In this stampede of strollers and tourists, note the poor woman tripped up by a charging office. It was clearly an accident, but when did it become normal in Turkey, one of the most civilised countries on earth, for a young officer to take a swipe at an innocent women on the ground?

And when did it become a crime to sit outside in a meyhane?

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