This video shows just how serious things are getting in Turkey’s protest center

June 11, 2013

It's amazing to watch this video and compare it to the images from Istanbul's Taksim Square just two weeks ago, when the protests began. In those first days of protest, the square looked more like an outdoor jazz concert, with urbane young locals lounging in the square's park and waving signs.

Now, as the above video shows, the square is filled with riot police, trucks blasting water cannons at protesters, tear gas and young, gas mask-wearing demonstrators who looked like they just stepped out of Cairo's Tahrir Square. That doesn't mean Turkey's protest movement is akin to Egypt's – for starters, Turkey is a democracy that freely elected its current, Islamist government – but it is jarring to see how quickly Taksim has been Tahrirified by protesters and police alike.

The Washington Post's Michael Birnbaum reported from Istanbul on Friday that, despite the noise in Taksim, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government still enjoy solid support:

With weak opposition leaders and a democratically elected majority for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, there is little clear political alternative in this nation of 74 million. In the conservative Istanbul quarter of Kasimpasa, Erdogan’s political home base, there is little desire for one.

“Ten years ago we couldn’t find water to wash ourselves,” said Ermis, 55, a driver, as he watched friends play a clacking tile game called Okey. Protesters “don’t want this country to develop, they want to bring it backward.”

Still, Ermis said, he disliked the tear gas and water cannons that police had used on peaceful protesters. “There is a failure of the state on that issue,” he said. Erdogan “is very stressed. He is not such a person.”

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Max Fisher · June 11, 2013