On Sunday morning, neighborhoods across Istanbul woke up to what has by now become a hauntingly familiar smell — tear gas. Before dawn, clouds of it enveloped the Bosporus Bridge, as riot police confronted hundreds of protesters trying to reach the city’s European shore. Around Taksim Square and Gezi Park, where renewed clashes erupted on Saturday night, its stink, combined with that of garbage left uncollected, infested the summer sea breeze.
Outside the Divan Hotel, just north of Gezi, where groups of protesters sheltered throughout the night, and where police responded by firing tear gas into the lobby, dozens of exhausted, bleary-eyed young men and women camped out on the sidewalk. “They gassed people just in front of the entrance,” Halit Eke, 24, a university student, told me. “They were picking their targets and shooting plastic bullets and gas canisters straight at us. There were children inside, mothers and even pregnant women.”
“The hotel people took us inside, as guests, filling up to the fourth floor. We were trapped in a huge gas capsule and couldn’t get out,” he said. As he spoke, a column of police officers passed in front of the building. The protesters booed them and whistled. “We won’t go until we’ve taken back Gezi,” said Eke.